May 11, 2004

Shuttle incites student protest

A protest posed questions about the credibility of the new pilot program for the Student Government (SG) Red Line shuttle during its inaugural run this Friday.

In the weeks before the new shuttle plan became a reality, many students began to have second thoughts about the effects it might have on relations between the University and the Hyde Park community. The shuttle, which runs a direct route from the Reynolds Club to the Red Line stop at Garfield, provides people affiliated with the University with quick transportation to and from campus. The concern is that having a separate shuttle bus will promote divisiveness between the students and the rest of the community, who must wait in the cold for the often-tardy #55 bus.

According to SG Transportation Committee Chair Joe Anzalone, who was present Friday evening, the students who rode the shuttle were pleased with their experience. "It got them to their destinations quickly enough," he said.

The protest was organized by Justin Rolfe-Redding, a fourth-year in the College. He sent out an e-mail to various campus organizations, calling for students to protest the shuttle on Friday night. "Our protest against the Red Line shuttle was kind of backwards," Rolfe-Redding said. "We usually speak with authorities first and then protest, but because we were not privy to the SG deliberations, we had to do something to get people's attention."

Students taking part in the protest met in the Reynolds Club at 9:30 p.m. to make posters for the demonstration. Bo Shan, SG president, and Anzalone paid a visit to the protesters in the Reynolds Club. According to Anzalone, once he and Shan explained the logistics of the shuttle, Rolfe-Redding seemed less averse to the idea. He said he was pleased by the conversation with Anzalone and Shan, and that both expressed a desire and willingness for compromise. Anzalone and Shan have extended an invitation to Rolfe-Redding to participate in the SG meetings, so that he may weigh in on further shuttle deliberations.

The protest continued as planned, with six students demonstrating at any given time, though perhaps twice that number took part throughout the hour-long protest.

Rolfe-Redding maintains that there are problems with the late-night service of the #55 bus, but he seeks a solution that would incorporate everyone, without polarizing the community.

First-year in the College Allison Hannon, who participated in the Friday night protest, views the shuttle as damaging to community and University relations. "I have worked in Kenwood at a local soup kitchen, and have been told repeatedly by community members that the University of Chicago gets what it wants without regard for its impact on the surrounding community," said Hannon.

Saying that he hopes there will be no need to stage another protest, Rolfe-Redding outlined some of the next steps he and other students will take in the future. Among these steps are a boycott of the shuttle, and the circulation of a petition against the shuttle to SG. He said that he supported the use of the funds allocated to the shuttle for improved CTA transit. Another, albeit less desirable, option would be to continue the shuttle, but to allow anyone to ride it, he said.