Another fall semester begins at Salisbury University; it is the start of a new school year, and students are feeling both the excitement and the anxiety of returning to campus.
However, students and faculty alike have been forced to grapple with the many changes made to the campus community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much instruction has shifted online, and masking and social distancing protocols are now in place for in-person instruction.
Classrooms are not the only thing the pandemic is affecting as the organization Saferide has been forced to completely shut down operations for the entire fall semester.
According to Chloe Birch, Saferide director for personnel and co-director of finance and operations, “Saferide is a confidential service that we provide to all students. We are responsible for taking students home if they’re…out drinking, out partying. We just provide a safe way for them to get home.”
Belle Torres, Saferide director of community relations and co-director of finance and operations, added, “we pick you up within a three-mile radius of campus...we hit all the major apartment complexes off-campus, so it’s available to pretty much anybody who has a student ID.”
In an email to the campus community on Aug. 27, the Saferide executive board wrote, “Saferide has come to the final decision that we will not be operating during the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19. We have…[concluded] that the University's COVID guidelines impede on Saferide's ability to operate during the weekend. We also believe that operating is not in the best interest for the health and safety of our community.”
Saferide normally operates Thursday through Saturday, from 10:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The organization faced some intense challenges to try to meet SU’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Saferide Director of Employee Relations and Co-Director of Finance and Operations Mia Coyle explained that Saferide could not remain a confidential service in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So, at first, we were determined to find ways to adjust our operations to fit the university’s guidelines … and then we had a meeting with some administrators, and we…refused to give up the confidential part. [We] don’t take anyone’s names or Gull Card numbers because it’s a confidential service to our students, and due to the university’s guidelines and contact tracing purposes, we weren’t able to get past that,” Coyle said.
COVID-19 restrictions also affected how many students would be allowed in Saferide’s vans. With the maximum van capacity reduced down to five individuals, Saferide would now only be able to drive around three students at a time.
In the meantime, until Saferide resumes its operations, there are still alternatives for students who relied on the organization for a safe trip home.
These other options, according to Torres, include “the Salisbury city bus, the local transit, [and] the trolley that runs through the library and downtown Salisbury is still available – [potentially] at a limited capacity, but it’s still running. There’s always Lyft and Uber…Salisbury taxi, and, last case scenario, if you do have a sober friend who…has not been drinking whatsoever, call them.”
The Saferide executive board ask that students take actions to remain healthy and safe during these challenging times.
“And as always, we highly encourage students to practice social distancing and everything, but it’s still hard to prevent [social gatherings] for college students, and we just really encourage students to not drink and drive and use the alternative options,” Coyle said.
By ALLISON GUY
Featured image: SU Saferide Facebook.