Why students responded quickly to the disbandment of OALA shuttle service

With the (temporary) disbandment of the OALA shuttle system, Baylor had opted to allow student that required it to park in designated handicap spaces. Cole Tompkins | Photographer

By Rachel Royster | Staff Writer, Video by Siegrid Massie | Broadcast Reporter

After a story by the Baylor Lariat came out last week concerning the cancellation of the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation’s shuttle service for students with mobility disabilities, students quickly made actions to advocate for the shuttle’s reinstatement.

Baylor sent out a message yesterday declaring that they would be restoring “the program as it was previously” after the disbanding of the shuttle service was met with thousands of students’ and organizations’ resistance.

“Moving forward, the University will further evaluate the program to determine more efficient and effective ways to provide shuttle service for students with disabilities in the future,” the official statement said.

The campus-wide support for students affected by the shuttle service being taken away included the Baylor Student Government, Baylor NAACP, Black Leaders Moving Social Work, Gamma Alpha Upsilon and It’s On Us BU.

“As Student Government, we believe this is an essential service in ensuring our students academic wellbeing,” said a social media statement made by the Baylor Student Government. “Our leadership immediately recognized the need to rectify this situation. Student Body President, Sutton Houser met with multiple members of Baylor’s administration to advocate for the needs of the affected students…”

There were also students helping spread awareness by making infographics that could be shared across social media platforms.

“Me and a couple of the other social work students were talking, and I came across the Lariat article, and I said, ‘This is absurd,’ and I wanted to make an infographic to spread the news,” Honolulu senior Asianna Brown, co-vice president of Black Leaders Moving Social Work said. “I did not expect my post to get spread around like it did at all. I honestly thought it was just going to reach the School of Social Work and get like 30 likes, and now it’s past 500. It made me realize how important the cause was. It’s clear that a lot of the other Baylor students thought that this needed to change.”

Not only did students try to educate their peers on the cause, but they also signed a petition to demonstrate the need for change. Aledo junior Madi Snow started the petition to “Restore the OALA Shuttle Program,” getting over 2,700 signatures.

“I knew me just sending an email to the office and letting them know that it was disappointing to see wouldn’t really do much, so I started the petition,” Snow said. “I thought the petition would be a good starting place to gather support, but to see the student body react so strongly and boldly showed that this was such an unjust thing that they would do whatever they needed to do to make sure the administration knew that it was important to them was just so so powerful and encouraging and special.”

Now that the shuttle service has been reinstated, previous student drivers are able to get their jobs back along with anyone else who would like to apply.

“I was honestly really surprised that Baylor moved so quickly considering that they haven’t moved as quickly in the past with other circumstances, but I’m very happy that they have come to their senses and reinstated everything,” San Juan Capistrano, Calif., senior Marissa Arreola, a previous OALA shuttle driver, said. “I’m also very happy, because I know some of the people that I’ve become friends with that I’ve driven in the past are glad to have the services back.”

Students across Baylor campus are glad that the services have been reestablished for their peers, even though they do not need to use to it themselves.

“The university doesn’t have to listen to us and a lot of universities don’t listen to their student bodies on issues like this, so for the turn around to be that quick and the response to be that direct from the administration is something that I am just so grateful for,” Snow said.

Students in need of the OALA disability shuttle service can now make use of the service “as soon as operational arrangements can be made” according to Baylor’s statement.

“I think the biggest impact is in assisting the students to get to their classes on time and taking one more stressor off of their back and helping them not have to deal with some of the barriers that they have to deal with on the daily that most people just don’t think about,” Arreola said.