Unlike last year, this fall semester has brought the return of roommates, in-person classes and, arguably most importantly, the freedom to leave campus. Whether you’re a commuter student, itching to take a class at MIT or eager to explore Newbury Street for the first time, transportation between Wellesley and the Boston/Cambridge area is as relevant an issue as it was pre-pandemic.
Returning students know by now that the Wellesley administration does not excel at keeping its promises. With one freedom extended to students, another is often taken away, putting students’ lives in disarray. This time, the trade-off has manifested itself in a modified Exchange Bus schedule. The new weekday bus leaves Wellesley during a narrow 9 am to 9 pm timeframe, leaving every 1.5 hours in the morning and every hour in the afternoon, whereas the Fall 2019 Exchange Bus left Wellesley hourly from 7 am until 11 pm.
This change can be partially explained by the vote on fossil fuel divestment that occurred in Spring 2021. Included during the College Government election cycle was a ballot question on whether Wellesley should join peer institutions like Smith and Middlebury in divesting its endowment from fossil fuels. The controversy of this vote stemmed not from divestment itself but the carbon-reducing measures paired with the vote, including a reduction in the frequency of bus trips to meet peak demand. To assuage student concerns, the ballot question included a reassurance that the College would offer rideshares to “accommodate all current student travel desires.” The student body, and subsequently the Board of Trustees, voted “Yes” on divestment paired with carbon-reducing measures. So why the outrage over the new bus schedule? Didn’t we ask for it with our affirmative vote?
Beyond the fact that the carbon-reducing measures were symbolic solutions to a systemic problem — and arguably an attempt by the Board of Trustees to sway the vote away from divestment — the current changes to the Exchange Bus schedule are not what we voted for. We can excuse the less frequent bus stops if the bus continues to operate during the same time frame. But, we cannot excuse the administration’s utter failure to meet student demand with a more accommodating schedule, an advanced reservation system and a rideshare program to supplement students’ needs — as we were promised.
Despite students being promised cross-registration opportunities with MIT, the narrow timeframe of the bus schedule does not realistically allow students to take classes at both Wellesley and MIT. Wellesley Facebook groups are currently filled with students lamenting their inability to make it to Wellesley or MIT classes on time due to the limited bus schedule. Considering that we are here first and foremost for our education, the College should be prioritizing our ability to attend in-person classes — as we were also promised.
Despite Wellesley allowing commuter students to take classes at the College this year — a necessity due to this year’s campus housing shortage — the bus schedule does not accommodate these students. With the earliest bus reaching Wellesley after 11 am, taking 8:30s and 9:55s is out of the question for any commuting students, unless they dish out $8 for the one-way commuter rail ticket to Wellesley. You can imagine how quickly these transportation costs would add up — an absurd financial burden for a college student.
The financial and logistical burdens imposed by this new bus schedule make life unnecessarily difficult for Wellesley students. Wellesley consistently paints rosy pictures of the rich life and opportunities that await students, and yet fails to deliver on any of those promises with even greater consistency. Amidst global crises and universally heightened stress, students should not have to worry about whether their school will provide the resources for them to get to their job on time, or to take a class they need to graduate or even to reach home safely. Wellesley, keep your promises for once and widen the time frame of the bus schedule to accommodate students’ classes — aka, what we came to Wellesley for.