Students react to removal of NEC shuttle stop

4/11/17 - Medford/Somerville, MA - An SMFA shuttle pictured outside of Granoff Music Center on April 11, 2017. (Alexis Serino / The Tufts Daily)

The shuttle stop at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) for students enrolled in Tufts’ combined-degree program has been removed, frustrating students who now face difficulties getting to and from classes on time. This comes in addition to existing issues with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA) Shuttle, which some students accuse of not accommodating combined-degree students with complicated class schedules.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Advising Robin Olinsky, who specializes in advising combined-degree NEC and SMFA students, explained why the stop was removed.

“The NEC stop was removed due to construction near the school. We were notified about a week before the school year started,” Olinsky told the Daily in an email.

She added that the university is working to accommodate NEC students.

“NEC students have been given MBTA passes to use for transportation between the two campuses,” she said. “We have also met with students and are exploring both short-term and long-term transportation options that balance the students’ needs and logistical considerations.”

Schedule changes to the SMFA shuttle were announced in an email to the student body Sept. 25 and went into effect the same day. Dean of the SMFA Nancy Bauer explained that the changes were intended to accommodate more students with a wider range of class schedules.

“The timing of two of the runs on the shuttle schedule [has been changed] to accommodate people who are going from Medford to the SMFA so that they can get there [from] the classes that end at popular times and not miss the bus,” Bauer said.

According to Bauer, the shuttle that had previously left at 11:35 a.m. Monday to Friday will now leave at 11:50 a.m. to allow those students with classes ending at 11:45 a.m. on the Medford campus to make the shuttle. Additionally, those with classes ending at 7:15 p.m. will be accommodated because the shuttle that originally left at 7 p.m. is now being moved to 7:20 p.m.

“There is an additional van added to the 8 a.m. run from Medford to the SMFA and to the 5:10 p.m. from the SMFA to Medford,” she said. 

Bauer added that the administration made an effort to address the problems with the shuttle so that students would not be inconvenienced when traveling between campuses.

Junior Moira Loh, a combined-degree NEC student, said that since the program was not immediately assigned a new dean for this year, combined-degree students have been in contact with Olinsky about why the stop was removed and about new ideas for solutions.

Loh explained that students now have to walk from the NEC to the SMFA to catch the shuttle, a .7– or .8–mile walk, but they did not get the opportunity to plan class schedules according to the new shuttle schedule. This has forced students to use the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Lyft and Uber to get to class on time, which gets expensive as students are paying out of pocket.

“All our class schedules are messed up because NEC runs on a 50-minute block system, so that a class goes from 1:00 p.m. to 1:50 , and usually the NEC stop would be at 1:55 outside, and so it would be perfect timing, but now the shuttle leaves at 1:50 at the SMFA, which is almost a mile away,” Loh, a junior, said.

Sophomore Nayoung Kim, an SMFA combined-degree student, expressed similar concerns about the inconsistencies of the shuttle system.

“I think they’re trying to fix that this year because … in the past, I feel like the teachers were sort of expected to understand if students were late because of the shuttle, which obviously disrupts the class,” Kim, a sophomore, said.

Daniel Cetlin, an NEC combined-degree student, expressed discontent with the lack of communication between the Tufts administration and the students in the program, which has worsened the shuttle complications.

“It’s a combination of a lack of communication with us, which often feels like neglect, because we’re such a small program… They made changes over the summer, [but] they didn’t tell us about those changes. We found out about [them] on our own, and the changes were very inconvenient,” Cetlin, a sophomore, said.

Inga Liu, a fifth-year combined-degree student with the NEC, expressed frustration with the fact that combined-degree students have been dealing with these issues for a month and that little has changed despite student efforts since before the start of classes to rectify the situation.

“We had tried really hard to solve the problem before the school year but unfortunately there was no communication,” Liu said. 

Loh felt that the solutions proposed by administrators, such as giving students MBTA passes with $40 on them, have not been sufficient in meeting students’ needs. Cetlin and Loh believed that this money has already run out for most students.

Loh said that the recent changes will not necessarily help the problems NEC students face, as many students still have to leave classes 15 minutes early to walk to the SMFA stop and then arrive back at Tufts 10–15 minutes late for their other classes. Furthermore, she pointed out that the walk to the SMFA stop is more inconvenient for students who bring instruments to the NEC.

Some informal compromises have made a small difference in making transportation easier for combined-degree students. According to Cetlin, sometimes a shuttle driver will stop near the NEC, even though there is no official stop, so that students can get off closer to their destinations.

“We’re able to take the shuttle there and actually make our classes for the most part because he’ll stop right before NEC even though there’s no bus stop there,” he said. “That’s very nice, but we’re not able to hop on on the way back because they take a different route.”

Cetlin added that it is important for Tufts to show NEC combined-degree students that it values the program and their contributions to the university’s academic and arts culture.

“At the end of the day, I love my music studies at the NEC and my academic studies at Tufts, and as of now, it’s probably worth this hoop we have to jump through, but not by much,” Cetlin said. “It’s very tiring and inconvenient, and doesn’t allow for busy schedules.”