Caught between rising prices for gasoline and reduced income from the Center’s endowment on one side and the increasing number of Swarthmore students participating in service activities on the other, the Lang Center transportation budget has drained at rapid pace this semester. As a result, student associates at the Center have begun an audit of the transportation expenses to date this year. Wee Chua ’06, who is working on the audit, estimated that at the current pace the transportation budget for the year will be exhausted midway through next semester, if not before.
According to Pat James, Associate Director for Training and Student Programs, transportation funding is central to the Center’s “mission, and to the values of the College that all students should have equal access to college-sponsored activities…we wouldn’t want these programs to be available only to students who can afford train fare every week.”
Since no similar audit of transportation funding has been conducted in the past, there is no basis for comparison with the current work. Yet the hope is that “the audit will help us to plan for future years, and to assess how many Swarthmore students require transportation to undertake their social change activities,” according to Debra Kardon-Brown, Assistant to the Director and Programs Coordinator.
In addition to conducting the audit, staff at the Center are examining the possibility of purchasing one or two vans for use in transporting students to community service activities. James noted that “for several years we’ve had conversations with Student Council and SBC about how they define groups and how they fund student service groups. It’s a bit frustrating that so many students come to Swat because of its commitment to social justice, but that little of that commitment is reflected in how students use their own funds to support individuals and groups who are taking action.” She continued that since “community service is sort of a hybrid activity that includes student activities and co-curricular student life” the Center gets caught in a “weird game about who should pay for what.”
While the Center’s transportation budget is getting squeezed this semester, James explained that transportation has always been one of the Center’s biggest costs. Furthermore, she predicted that any college campus with a commitment to social action would pick transportation as their biggest logistical challenge as well.