Opponents of the new taxi program have an anthem, and it goes like this: it only takes one. A driver decides to save the $6 taxi fare by careening his way back from drinking at an off-campus party. A pedestrian impatient with an unfamiliar bus schedule decides to walk down the shoulder of a dark 3 a.m. road. It only takes one and, after that, the anthem goes, the money saved by the new taxi program would not have been enough.
The first weeks of this semester, these dangers seem more possible than ever before. Confused by a new program, frustrated by a decision made without substantive student input, unwilling to shell out the extra cash to call Saratoga Taxi, stranded students might make dangerous choices. But after students adjust to the new schedule and forget how things used to be, the changes to the program pose more of an inconvenience than a new threat.
Students venturing off campus will not always be safe, whether they cram into free cabs or lurch back on a free bus. Long before they were told to shuffle to a bus stop, some students would decide to drive drunk or walk home in the dark instead of competing for a cab. Saratoga Taxi will still answer late-night calls, and most students can save money that would have gone toward another beer, buying a ride home instead.
But the new schedule makes a larger statement about administrators' approach to student life. Free taxis showing up at the end of the night told students that administrators wanted us to come home safe, regardless of the financial investment required. It only takes one, the free taxi program said, and that chance is more of a cost than the college is willing to pay.
The free taxi program was a convenience and a symbol, but students didn't realize it at the time. It was as invisible as school-funded lunches with your favorite professor and limitless paper for printing in the library, as quietly reassuring as calls from Campus Safety reminding students their lights are on in the parking lot. It was there like all the other small pieces of campus that make the college our home.
Students miss the free taxi program, and hope members of the class of 2014 might just have a good story to tell in three years: "When I was a freshman…" But administrative attention could be better used in other places than tallying up taxis and buses.
When they heard about students falling out of cabs, too drunk to stand after binge-drinking in the "dry" dorms, hopefully they came to a different conclusion than just deciding cabs might not be a bad idea. Changes to students' drinking need to take place at home, with the examination of procedures based on hypocrisy and mutual disrespect.
Get students drinking responsibly on campus, rather than worrying about how to shuttle them off. Consider alterations to the "dry campus" policy and the red tape that keeps Falstaff's from returning as an on-campus bar. Question the assumption that students just don't know how to drink responsibly.
The free taxi program represented laudable concern and respect from administrators, a spirit students wish they could see reflecting in all aspects of the school's approach toward student life. It should have only taken one, Skidmore, and the drinking policy has hurt more than that.