When freshman Shawn Dejbakhsh rode on the Mount Vernon shuttle several weeks ago, he witnessed an unpleasant scene.
“I look over and there is this girl sitting by herself – and she was just hurling all over the seat next to her,” Dejbakhsh said. “She was blowing chunks and it was disgusting.”
Dejbakhsh, who lives on the Mount Vernon Campus, said the incident occurred before the shuttle left the stop and that the girl was very discreet, even attempting to clean it up herself.
The driver did not notice, he said, and neither did most of the other riders. The shuttle continued onto its destination without any action.
Administrators were forced this fall to begin charging fees for students who vomit on the Mount Vernon shuttle, saying each incident costs hundreds of dollars to resolve.
The University announced its policy in an e-mail to Mount Vernon residents last month titled “Vomit on The Vern Express and You.” It said the mandatory fee – which can be more than $300 – is due to cleaning costs, removing the bus from service and providing cab vouchers for inconvenienced riders.
“Furthermore, mystery riders may soon be joining you on your overnight trips to and from The Vern,” the e-mail said. “If you are observed behaving in a way that endangers yourself or jeopardizes the continuity of The Vern Express, you will be held accountable.”
Robert Snyder, director of Mount Vernon Campus Life, said there are about two or three instances of vomit on the shuttle per semester.
“The ‘campaign’ regarding vomit on The Vern Express is first and foremost about encouraging our students to act responsibly and also to be held accountable for their actions, especially when they impact others,” Snyder wrote in an e-mail.
Snyder said when a rider does vomit on The Vern Express, the goal is to ensure the safety of the passengers and provide medical attention to the intoxicated person. Once all passengers have departed the shuttle at its destination, the bus is driven back to base and swapped for another one – a lengthy process, administrators said.
“(The fine is) an attempt to educate students about the impact that their decisions and actions have on other members of the University community and to hold these students accountable for their decisions/actions,” Snyder said.
He added that intoxicated students will not be turned away from the shuttle.
Shuttle driver John Dinkins, who has been operating the Vern Express for four weeks, said he has never experienced any vomiting or intoxicated riders in his vehicle – though he is trained how to respond if the situation arises.
“We have a phone number I call my immediate supervisor and he would take it from there and tell me what to do. And if it’s so bad I call 911 emergency,” Dinkins said.
Melissa Kiefer, a junior, said vomit on the shuttle was a problem when she lived on the Vern last year.
“There were three weeks in a row that the bus had to be shut down and UPD isn’t exactly helpful on getting you back to the Vern at 3:30 in the morning,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer said she worked until 2 a.m. and was often inconvenienced by drunk shuttle riders when she wanted to go home and sleep.
Elan Schnitzer, marketing coordinator for Event and Special Services for Mount Vernon Campus Life, said the cleaning costs alone make it a big imposition on the University.
“At the very least, the cost of actually cleaning the bus . runs anywhere between $200 and $300,” Schnitzer said.
Dejbakhsh, the freshman who witnessed an incident several weeks ago, said students need to know their limits before getting into a vehicle intoxicated.
“(The girl who vomited) should have freaking known her limits been more sensible,” Dejbakhsh said. “She should’ve gotten off the bus and done it.”
Snyder said the cost of vomiting on the Vern Express cannot be paid on GWorld.