Editorial: If Tufts is committed to SMFA, shuttle service must meet needs of dual-degree students

Last year, Tufts added three new shuttles to expand the transportation offerings between the Medford/Somerville and School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) campuses. Despite this being a good step to increase the integration of our campuses, there is still much potential for improvement. Currently, shuttles run from morning to night on Mondays through Fridays; however, weekend service is very limited. In fact, the shuttle only completes two round trips on Saturdays, and no shuttles operate on Sundays. Specifically, on Saturdays the shuttle departs from the Medford campus at 8:15 and 11:00 a.m., and it leaves the SMFA at 9 a.m. and 12:20 p.m. This lack of service is a disservice to the dual-degree students who must work in the studio on weekends. In order to address the needs of dual-degree students, Tufts must increase shuttle services on Saturdays and implement a Sunday shuttle system.

Dual-degree students travel to the SMFA campus for a host of reasons. First-year dual-degree student Maggie Brosnan told the Daily that “Medford just doesn’t have the materials, supplies and accommodations you need to do oil painting and ceramics.” Brosnan said that with the pressures of the dual-degree schedule, students must use the weekends to complete large sections of studio work. Specifically, Brosnan said that if she were to do her SMFA homework during the week instead of the weekend, she would have to stay at the SMFA campus late into the night, doing studio work after classes end at 5 p.m. “I would have to go [to the SMFA] at 9 a.m. and get back at [midnight],” she said. 

Additionally, many dual-degree students, such as sophomores Laura Felice and Myrth Tan, enroll in Monday classes at the SMFA, so they must complete work at the SMFA over the weekend. 

“We’re are always in the studio over the weekend because we have stuff to do in the studio for our next class that we just can’t do [in Medford],” Tan said. “Just this last Saturday, we had a [required] make-up class.” A trip to the SMFA was truly unavoidable.

Because dual-degree students have to commute to the SMFA during the weekend, the shuttle service’s limited weekend schedule can cause problems. The class Tan mentioned? It runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. “We had to take the T there and back,” Tan told the Daily. 

“If you are going [to the SMFA] for extra studio time, you are not there for a short amount of time,” Felice told the Daily, and therefore students return to campus much later than the shuttle’s scheduled hours. “[SMFA students] are exhausted from the studio, and you have to take the T home, [which includes a] transfer from the green line to the red line,” Felice said.

“Sometimes we end up Ubering because we just can’t handle it, but it’s so expensive,” Tan told the Daily. This situation backs dual-degree students into a corner with only two options: embark on the long journey on the MBTA back to campus or pay significantly more for an Uber. This situation is completely unacceptable. Considering the obvious necessity of weekend trips to the SMFA, dual-degree students should not have to pay for transport or be put to more stress than they already are with their rigorous curriculum.

Reflecting on the SMFA shuttle’s role in the overall dual-degree experience, Tan told the Daily that “the worst thing about being combined degree is the shuttle.” She believes the shuttle experience plays a major role in why dual-degree students drop one of their degrees. “I’m not surprised people drop one of their degrees because it’s just too much … I think [the shuttle] is a huge part of [this problem],” Tan said. If the SMFA shuttle is preventing students’ enjoyment of and success in the SMFA dual-degree program, how can Tufts ignore the problem any longer?

The solution is simple: Tufts must increase the shuttle’s Saturday service hours and begin running on Sunday. This can be achieved through putting to use more vans already owned by the university and, if necessary, hiring additional drivers. Tufts is already aware of the transportation deficit and currently pays for dual-degree students’ Lyfts from campus to campus between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. They could easily expand this service to weekend days and all hours that the shuttle does not run. In all, investing in SMFA shuttles means investing in the dual-degree program and students’ futures. The university must afford SMFA students the resources they require to complete their degrees; it’s a matter of simple respect.