It is not every campus that can brag about being four blocks away from the White House. It is not every campus that affords its students a breathtaking view of the Washington Monument – from their residence hall window. And it is not every campus that has to worry about its students being held up at gunpoint.
The privileges that GW’s location affords its students come with certain disadvantages. Four days ago, two students were held up at gunpoint at the intersection of 24th and I streets. Though thankfully both students were able to escape the situation safely, the incident brings up the issue of campus security. The University released a Campus Alert, advising students to use University Police Department’s 4-Ride service to deter such crime. Unfortunately, due to heavy traffic and limited resources, the 4-Ride system is often not used by those who need it most.
While the University’s 4-Ride service is well known among students, its reputation on campus relies upon the convenience of its use rather than the safety it promotes. My initial exposure to the service came at Colonial Inauguration, in the form of a fellow student telling me how this shiny white van would come as a beacon of hope on those nights I was just too drunk to make it home.
The 4-Ride service has been remarkably successful in delivering such drunken students to their dorms safe and sound. It has also been successful in protecting students from those most horrific elements-cold, rain, wind, sleet and snow. And generally, 4-Ride has been quite effective at providing students a safe ride home when traveling back from the library, a dorm or academic buildings late at night.
But having to face these challenges has put a significant strain on the 4-Ride system. As winter approaches, the University’s 13 vans will again face thousands of requests per month. And as a result, some students will undoubtedly be deterred by long delays both while trying to connect to the operator and wait to be picked up. Ultimately, this leads some to forgo the service and hike to their destination instead.
In order to address these alleviate the request volume, the University implemented the Colonial Express shuttle service, which runs two routes between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. every night. The northern route circles Marvin Center, The Aston, 19th and L streets, Connecticut Avenue and L Street, and 20th and I streets. The southern course travels to Marvin Center, Thurston, HellWell, HOVA and Columbia Plaza.
Unfortunately, this service is a notable failure. Not surprisingly, statistics indicate that students use the 4-Ride service significantly more than the Colonial Shuttle. And why not? UPD advertises the service as running only every 20 minutes during working hours.
In addition, both routes entirely ignore students who must travel to the 24th Street corridor. They ignore students returning from a night out in Georgetown. They ignore student-filled apartment buildings Bon Wit Plaza, The Elise, Jefferson House and Claridge House. They even ignore students living in University-owned City Hall, which houses up to 535 juniors.
Those who live on the west end of campus,in this corridor are faced with the task of either waiting for a 4-Ride van or just risking it and hiking up to their destination.
It is no coincidence then that the students who were held at gunpoint Thursday morning were at 24th and I streets at the time. It is no coincidence that two months ago, a female student was robbed right outside the Foggy Bottom Metro stop. It is no coincidence that hospital courtyard, which is a bustling meeting place during the day, has become increasingly dangerous to travel through at night.
Yet the University has neglected to address this issue. Until it does, students will continue to walk instead of wait. In short UPD needs to increase the number of vans out on patrol on weekdays. Driver Sahmiva Matani reported that although UPD has 13 vans total, only six or seven are used between Monday and Wednesday. On weekends, all 13 vans are in service. But these 13 vans serve 9,700 undergraduates. As one of the most important services addressing the safety of a city-dwelling college population, UPD deserves to have more funding. They deserve to have more vans. And students deserve to expect their $50,000 to at least keep them safe.
A university that prides itself in its location should understand that with its benefits come pitfalls. And when avoidable, the University has an ethical and moral obligation to take every possible step to avoid them.
The writer is a junior majoring in international affairs and political science.