New Mardi Gras shuttle policy unnecessary, exclusionary

Eleni Sakellakis, Contributing Reporter

Editor’s Note: The Hullabaloo will be following this story in the News section as it develops, therefore the facts in the article at publication are subject to change.

For several years, Tulane University Shuttles and Transportation has provided an easy option for students traveling to and from parades, serving as an alternative to expensive Ubers and long walks through congested parts of the city. This year, the option of safe, reliable transportation during Mardi Gras has been stripped from many Tulane students.

Hanson Dai | Associate Artist

On Friday, Feb. 22, the general student body of Tulane was informed via email from the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life that the policy regarding Mardi Gras shuttle services had been changed from what students had come to expect. In the past, shuttle services operated on a first come, first served basis for any student presenting a Splash Card. Now, those wishing to utilize Tulane’s shuttles during Mardi Gras must register in advance through Orgsync. Shuttles will still operate on a first come, first served basis, but with priority boarding given to students who were able to register online before the severely limited RSVP capacity was reached. Students who did not have the opportunity to pre-register may be able to board only if there is additional space after the pre-registered students board.

While no explanation has been given regarding what necessitated this change, the impact is clear. In contrast to years prior, during which all Tulane students had a fair chance at utilizing the service, shuttles for the 2019 Mardi Gras season have been made needlessly exclusionary. The number of students able to access the service each day varies, with RSVP capacity capped at as low as 564 individuals on Friday to more than 1000 on Sunday. These numbers represent only a small fraction of Tulane’s student body. The introduction of this registration policy has effectively created a two-tiered system, in which a limited subset of the student body has been given priority access, while the majority of Tulane students are no longer able to rely on these services as they have in years past.

What is more troubling than this unnecessary change in policy itself is Tulane’s inadequate communication of these new requirements to the student body. While the email sent by the LBC on Friday was not the first email students received regarding Mardi Gras 2019, or the Mardi Gras shuttles specifically, this was the first and only email that mentioned the added registration requirement. Despite this, the email was sent after most spots had already been filled. By the time news of the new policy reached students, there were very few additional spaces open, and within a few hours, RSVP capacity was reached for every day of Mardi Gras except Sunday.

Additionally, information about how students were supposed to register was unclear. The email did not include links to the registration pages, and students trying to secure a spot had to sift through Orgsync themselves. The email sent on Friday was insufficient and misleading, given that the information came too late to actually impact students’ ability to sign up for the shuttles.

A change this consequential should have been advertised ahead of time and not hidden in an email sent out after RSVP capacity had been reached. Because of Tulane’s failure to effectively communicate the RSVP requirements, hundreds of Tulane students have been effectively barred from the services they had anticipated utilizing during Mardi Gras.

It is clear that not all Tulane students were given a fair chance at securing their spot on Mardi Gras shuttles. Tulane acted in bad faith by waiting until RSVP spots were filled — presumably by a select group of students given preferential notice — before informing the rest of the student body about this new, unnecessary policy. As a result, a service that used to be accessible for all Tulane students has been made needlessly exclusive, and many students are left beginning Mardi Gras without a reliable and safe way to get around the city.

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