Petition to provide local buses to students staying on campus during breaks gains support

Students boarding a local bus (pictured above) that goes to various locations on and off-campus during the academic year, including Walmart and Wegmans. Communications major senior Udeshi Seneviratne, an international student from Vietnam, started a Geneseo Speaks petition calling for the college to offer transportation to students staying on campus during breaks (Udeshi Seneviratne/photo editor).

A Geneseo Speaks petition posted on Thursday Nov. 1 drew attention to the lack of bus access for students who stay on campus during extended breaks from classes. The petition has increased awareness around campus about the issue facing the affected individuals.

The petition, submitted by communication major senior Udeshi Seneviratne, specifically states that the college should provide bussing “at least once a week during Thanksgiving and winter breaks for students’ safety.” As of publication, the petition has 136 signatures. 

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio explained that the college does not provide bussing during breaks due to concerns over costs. 

“If we were to expand for that period, we would look at two things: how many people would benefit and how much would it cost,” Bonfiglio said. 

“When you have a petition like this, it doesn’t usually consider the costs, but it would probably cost around five dollars for every student each semester.” 

Many of those who stay during extended breaks are international students because they cannot fly home for a relatively short period of time, according to Seneviratne. As such, many of the students who stay lack access to their own cars.

Accounting major senior Nhan Do accepts that the college has financial constraints, but he argues that it is necessary for the students who are restricted on-campus for weeks. 

“I kind of agree with the school because I know they are trying to save the budget and because there are not many students during the break, but from an international student perspective, a bussing during the breaks is essential,” Do said. “That’s why a lot of people support this petition. The dining halls are not open so the only option for any supplies is Wegmans and Walmart. If you had a car, it would be no problem, but [international students] don’t really have cars because they are coming from far way. So, during breaks, we’re kind of stuck.”  

To change the level of fees that the college charges students, Geneseo would need to operate under SUNY rules, according to Bonfiglio. 

Each year SUNY caps the amount that Geneseo can increase its fees across the board.

Even if the college did decide to charge students more, Bonfiglio noted that it would be difficult to reformat the fees due to these SUNY policies. 

“In order to add to the transportation to benefit 120 students, we would have to not increase other fees which would directly benefit other students,” Bonfiglio said. “Technology fees benefit everybody. Health and counseling benefits everybody … does that mean that we wouldn’t consider changing things? [We could change] if that’s what the students really wanted, but something’s gotta give.” 

Seneviratne feels that the college should still provide some sort of bus service during the extended breaks, even if it would only help a relatively small percentage of students. 

“I know it might be hard to change around the budget for only a few people’s benefit,” Seneviratne said. 

“But international students also pay more than other students [through out-of-state tuition] so the college should maybe address international students’ needs.” 

Do also believes that bussing is one of the only effective ways to help students gain access Walmart and Wegman’s. 

“In terms of Uber, most of the time they have to come from Rochester before they drive you to where you want … I’d imagine each ride like that would cost around 20 dollars at a minimum. It’s very expensive and inconvenient as well,” Do said. 

“Normally I would say that [walking to Wegmans or Walmart] could be okay, … but the normal winter at Geneseo is surely not warm and there might be snow. You’re also walking with groceries in both hands.” 

Seneviratne also emphasized that during breaks, students who can’t access food from Wegmans or Walmart also wouldn’t be able to buy more immediately necessary items, such as feminine hygiene products. 

The Student Senate decided to discuss the petition and the broader issue at its weekly meeting on Wednesday Nov. 8, according to student senator who participates on the diversity committee sophomore Tshering Sherpa. 

Bonfiglio emphasized that the college can consider initiatives such as this one, but that it would come at cost to other programs. 

Today we have around 100,000 riders, so it gets a lot of use,” Bonfiglio said. 

“If there are other ways we can better serve students, I’m interested in it, but we’re dealing with a limited amount of resources and if we diverted resources into this we would have to take it from somewhere else.”  

Udeshi Seneviratne is The Lamron photo editor, but she did not have editorial say in this article.