The $40 Freakout

Recently, SFC won the student government election, most likely in large part due to its recent achievement of establishing free printing in the library. (Thanks again!) This election was more significant than those of prior years because the ballot also included a referendum. The referendum was for funding a shuttle bus that would go to Main Street Flushing, the LIRR, and Queens Hall. To my utter shock, the referendum passed.

When I go to the city and use Public Transportation, I take the Q64 and then get a free transfer to the E. I can travel as much as I want on the subway for $2.50! (It used to be $2.25 before Superstorm Sandy, but the natural disaster generated tremendous losses for the MTA) Why would I choose to go on a more expensive option, such as the new shuttle?

When I go to the city and use Public Transportation, I take the Q64 and then get a free transfer to the E. I can travel as much as I want on the subway for $2.50! (It used to be $2.25 before Superstorm Sandy, but the natural disaster generated tremendous losses for the MTA) Why would I choose to go on a more expensive option, such as the new shuttle?

I was opposed to the shuttle bus for a variety of reasons. To be sure, I addressed my concerns and issues with the SFC candidates, who backed this proposition. Firstly, I was concerned by the limited amount of places where the bus would drive. Indeed, many students go to Flushing and the LIRR when traveling home, but a significant amount also go by the subway station in Forest Hills. How come the bus wouldn’t stop there? Also, after going on this bus, would one get a free transfer to the subway, as is possible with the MTA buses and subways? If the shuttle service was not carried out in conjunction with the MTA, riders, by paying both the shuttle fees and the MTA fare, would end up paying significantly more, all because of some mere convenience factor. A third problem I thought of was that the shuttle bus might impact traffic patterns around Queens College. How often would these buses come, and what would the travel route be? As for drivers, I wanted to know who would be hired, and what their credentials would be. Furthermore, since they are serving Queens College-a city school-would they be considered as employees of the city (and thus be eligible for certain perks or union membership)? There were many gaps in this plan, and many questions that remained unanswered.

If your class is half empty, it is either because it is the day before vacation, or there is bumper to bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Despite their incessant gripes about the LIE, many students depend on the pathway as their only option to drive directly to Queens College.

If your class is half empty, it is either because it is the day before vacation, or there is bumper to bumper traffic on the Long Island Expressway. Despite their incessant gripes about the LIE, many students depend on the pathway as their only option to drive directly to Queens College.

Commuters also pointed out a major issue that had not crossed my mind. While the shuttle was intended to facilitate the commute for students who live at home, it would not be beneficial to all such students. Many live too far a distance from Queens College to take public transportation; in order to logistically get to class in a reasonable amount of time, they have no option but to drive. Because of the dearth of available street parking around Queens College, and because of the cutthroat nature of claiming a suddenly empty spot, many buy a parking spot located on campus for $250. These drivers will not be taking advantage of the shuttle, but will be forced to pay the $40 fee each semester regardless. That means that in a one year, students who commute will have to shell out over $300 exclusively for transportation purposes to Queens College-and that does not even include personal expenses for gas and tolls. From this perspective, it is clear why commuters staunchly believe that the shuttle bus is a colossal waste of money.

Juliet said "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Roses are pricy flowers, as will be our student fees next semester when an extra $40 is tacked on.

Juliet said “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Roses are pricy flowers, as will be our student fees next semester when an extra $40 is tacked on.

Labeling the $40 fee as an addition to Student Fees was an ingenious psychological move to sway voters. Associating the increase in payment with student fees sounds far more innocuous than saying it is a tuition hike. In reality, the name does not matter; students are still being forced to part with their precious dollars. I remember last semester when I noticed that my student fees had significantly increased. The woman at the Bursar’s Office attempted to reassure me by saying “At least it’s not an increase in your tuition!,” to which I gave her a look that read “Are you kidding me?” (raised right eyebrow, face tilted slightly to the right, emanating just the right of chutzpah to express my outrage without her feeling threatened enough to call security). You know what Shakespeare says about a name-except this time, we are not talking about something sweet.

I had come to resign to the fact that I would be paying more next semester, until I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, something curious in the library. Someone was distributing a petition to cancel the shuttle bus referendum. I was intrigued and read the entire sheet carefully. Indeed, it expressed my exact concerns and sentiments regarding the feasibility (read: impracticality) of the shuttle bus, but with a caveat: there was a small part that also mentioned negating the results of the elections, claiming that many votes were fraudulently cast because students were tricked into handing over their emails. I thought this latter part was absurd; everyone knows that it is election week, and it is their fault for not taking their vote seriously. (Most students who cast a vote put no thought as to whom they were voting for. That truly grinds my gears.) I signed on the line to override the referendum, but refused to sign the second line.

Legend has it that King George was able to read John Hancock's signature without his glasses it was so large. John Hancock clearly knew what he was agreeing to, when he penned this famous signature. If only people nowadays would heed what they signed...

Legend has it that King George was able to read John Hancock’s signature without his glasses it was so large. John Hancock clearly knew what he was agreeing to, when he penned this famous signature. If only people nowadays would heed what they signed…

As I spoke to more people about the petition, I was appalled by what I heard. They supported the petition, so they signed the sheet. Read: the ENTIRE sheet. Not bothering to read what they were about to stamp with their indelible John Hancock, people absentmindedly agreed to the clause that stated that the party election results should be overturned. When I informed my peers as to what they had agreed to, they were shocked. Many of those individuals proudly supported SFC. Ironically, the people who had claimed that votes had been fraudulently acquired were now exploiting unsuspecting individuals in the exact same fashion.

Businesses and companies frequently employ this exact tactic to ensnare customers. That there are people who still fall for the traps despite hearing horror stories serves to propel them to continue doing these unethical practices. I beseech of you  all to read contracts that you sign in their entirely, lest you agree to a lifetime of indentured servitude!

As students with a voice, we do not have to be enslaved to the status quo in Queens College. I do not know the fate of the shuttle bus, and have asked people if, on the chance that this operation is a bust, it could be canceled after one semester. I was “reassured” by a confident Maybe. Time will tell, but for now, I am off to catch the next bus to Forest Hills, provided exclusively by the MTA.

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Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 2:54 am Comments (0)


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