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President's Q&A, August 2012
August 23, 2012
The questions below are excerpts from Dr. Perman’s group Q&A on Aug. 23 at Westminster Hall, which focused to a great extent on the new UM shuttle.
Dr. Perman: Let me make a few opening comments and then we’ll hear your questions, comments, and concerns about the shuttle. The idea was brought to me some months ago by Dr. Bruce Jarrell [chief academic and research officer and senior vice president] and Dr. Roger Ward [chief accountability officer and associate vice president]—people who are very focused as I am and I know you are on our students. Quite frankly I think it was also around the time there was a slight uptick in crime affecting our campus and the surrounding communities. So we were looking for opportunities for better transportation and better service for our students.
I make a very important point by explaining it that way. The idea of the shuttle began with an attempt to better serve our students’ needs. That’s pertinent because I’ve already heard some concerns today about the initial routes that have been defined and I need you to know that those routes took very much into account where our students are. I hope the people in this room who are not students, which is most of you, know that I obviously care about our faculty and staff as well. But the central reason to provide a fine transportation service—not just we’ll come and get you here and take you there—was to enhance our student experience.
At the risk of provoking you further I’m going to say it, and say it often: I love the faculty, I love the staff, I love the administration, and I love the schools. But among those constituencies, there’s only one constituency that pays to be here, and that’s the students. So we have to pay attention to them.
As a result we created three routes—Mount Vernon, Federal Hill, and the BioPark. I am just thrilled to see such a shuttle exist. You know we look like the real deal now. Someone reminded me that Malinda Orlin, our retired vice president for academic affairs, used to talk about a grown-up University. I’m telling you in my mind the shuttle makes me think that we’re growing up as a University. Quite frankly, I live downtown and as I see this UM shuttle moving through the streets I think it’s terrific marketing. Talk about gates and entrances to the University, this shuttle is terrific. And in case anyone has a question about how it has been received, it’s only been running for about a week and a half and we’ve counted over 1,200 riders already. That’s a very different number from the Caravan that we used to have.
Now I’ve received a lot of positive comments about the shuttle but not surprisingly I’ve also gotten some negative comments as have those who are gathering such shuttle comments. Why doesn’t it stop here? Why can’t we do this or that? Like with any other good idea, let’s give this about six months and then we can reorganize. But we’ve gotten it off the ground and I think we’re off to a great start and I congratulate everyone involved. So those are my comments and I look forward to yours.
Q: Transportation has been a problem for my daughter and I because our schedules don’t always coincide. But the new shuttle goes right by my daughter’s school. Is there any way that she would be allowed to ride the shuttle by herself so that she could get to school when I can’t take her?
Dr. Perman: Well, I’m glad you brought that up for several reasons. What you have asked is very difficult and complex. So people who make sure we do things the right way don’t faint, I’m not about to say “no problem” because I’m sure there are all sorts of rules and regulations we have to abide by.
Having said that, you do bring up a question that I’m very focused on and that is child care. That is one of the things we need to improve on to make this University a “best place to work.” I do have a working group looking at better options for child care. Your particular issue raises the larger question of who can ride the shuttle. I’ll turn this over to Robert Milner, our director of parking and transportation services.
Mr. Milner: If your child would not be riding with you that is something we would need to discuss because that’s a very unique and sensitive situation. Like Dr. Perman, I would not want to get myself in any legal trouble by approving it. But in terms of the general question about who can ride the shuttle, anyone with a University ID or a University of Maryland Medical Center ID can get on the shuttle and if there is a visitor with them—whether it’s a professor or a child or family member—they are also allowed on the shuttle.
Dr. Perman: So you can have someone accompany you?
Mr. Milner: Yes.
Dr. Perman: The UM shuttle is just one of many partnerships that have come out of the MPowering the State initiative, our partnering in very effective ways with College Park. And the shuttle services are being provided by contract with UMCP. I will allow Mr. Milner to introduce our guest.
Mr. Milner: Our special guest from College Park is David Allen. He is our partner in transportation services and is the director of parking and transportation services for College Park. He’s here with his 4-year-old daughter, Lylah.
Q: Someone told me the UM shuttle is replacing the police escort, where you can call and be accompanied to your car by a police officer. Is this true?
Dr. Perman: That’s a very important point. The shuttle operates in conjunction with the police escort service. It does not replace it. Chief Williams, could you comment?
Police Chief Tony Williams: The shuttle has done nothing to change the police escort program, which still operates within the campus area 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Three types of escorts are still available to University faculty, staff, and students: walking escorts, which are available around the clock, and police van and riding escorts from 6 p.m. to 12:20 a.m. Call 410-706-6882 (ext. 6-6882 from a campus phone) to request a police escort. Please remember UMB police officers are here to assist all faculty, staff, and students with any safety request. We are ready and willing to happily serve you; do not hesitate to call.
Dr. Perman: The police escort is a standing offer and we encourage anyone who is concerned about walking somewhere, particularly at night, to call our police and get a ride. That is a totally under-utilized option. The police are happy to do this. So shuttle or no shuttle, nothing changes with regard to our concerns about your safety.
Q: Regarding the police situation, I know we had discussed the possibility of a National Night Out where everyone leaves the porch lights on and members of the community get together. I think, generally speaking, a lot of people are intimidated by the police. So since the National Night Out didn’t happen this year on our campus, perhaps we can brainstorm about ways such as an Open House to get the University community and the police together so we realize they’re not as scary as some people think.
Chief Williams: I hope everyone doesn’t think I’m scary right now. I’m smiling and everything. We haven’t done an Open House here yet, but we have had some discussions about it. A small group of us spoke about a National Night Out, but time came upon us very quickly and I made the decision, rather than to do something that wouldn’t be a quality event, to instead put a committee together and start working on it for next year.
But there are a couple of things anyone can do. We’re like anybody else in public safety. The best way to break through some of those barriers is to spend some time with us, talk with us even when there is nothing going on. Our officers and patrol persons are on campus at all times. We do recognize that we do serve you and work for you. It might take an event where we’re all not there in an official patrol type of capacity to break the ice but we would like to have an Open House or some kind of opportunity to teach more about what the police actually do. We offer chances to ride with us or walk along with us. I would also ask you to speak to some of the people on our Public Safety Awareness Committee because they’re our partners. This committee is growing—we meet with them every month and they have a direct pipeline to us.