Current late-night jitney policy for underage students encourages unsafe behavior

By Paul Giuliano ’19

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Clinton, New York has always been the home of Hamilton College. This quaint, cozy central New York location is a key part of the identity of the college. Students attend Hamilton for its outstanding academics, fantastic alumni base and abundance of academic and professional resources, but also to experience life in Clinton. A big part of that experience is the night life. Every weekend, hordes of students flock to Clinton in the late hours of the night to adventure down the Hill. Some head to the local bars, while others grab some food or seek additional escapades. Regardless of students’ intentions, those under 21 face a difficult obstacle: no access to the Jitney.

   For students who do not intend to drink and do not have access to a car, but want to visit Clinton after 10:00 pm, there is only one choice: an extensive, frigid walk down the often slippery and dangerous Hill. The college is doing these students a disservice by not allowing them access to Clinton late at night on the weekends.

For the other under-21 students who are heading to the local bars downtown, they are faced with a difficult obstacle. Most students start drinking up on the Hill before heading into Clinton. That leaves a drunken, rambunctious group left to figure out how they will be getting downtown. A common idea is to find a sober friend to drive someone’s car. This can be particularly difficult, however, as many are unavailable due to early morning sports practices or busy nights in the library. Most times, the search for a driver is a failure. At this point, some students may feel pressured to offer up the least drunk person to drive. If students are unable to find a sober driver and elect to wrongly put a buzzed or intoxicated driver behind the wheel of an over-packed car, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, if this trend keeps up it is only a matter of time before something tragic happens. While I can’t speak to this specific type of behavior occurring on campus, it is certainly a possibility given the circumstances. I have heard second and third hand accounts of this exact scenario occurring, and this is certainly something the school doesn’t want to enable by restricting underage students access to the Jitney. 

If you are lucky enough to find a sober driver then you are left with the task of finding an available vehicle. If you are with a large number of people, odds are someone is bound to have a car. However, a new problem then arises. The driver is forced to squeeze seven to nine people (or more) into a car that only fits five. Packing a tiny car with extra people in each seat (or stuffing people into the trunk) doesn’t provide the safest trip down the black ice-covered road to Clinton. 

To that point, students trying to walk downtown face the hazardous Hill, which, in an intoxicated state, could be even more dangerous than one might think. From my experience travelling up the Hill, I can recall nights where students slipped and slid down the paths. On some rare occasions, when the sidewalks aren’t sufficiently cleared, some students have elected to travel using the road. Clearly, this is not a safe practice.

A counterargument to my case might be that the 8:00-10:00 pm Jitney is still available to underage students. That may be the case, but dropping off students hours before the nightlife scene begins may not be the best idea. Having a large number of students loitering in downtown Clinton for hours doesn’t reflect well on the College. Also, after many recent attempts to take this Jitney myself, I found that the arrival of the Jitney does not always match the stated schedule. Often it runs late, most likely due to the bus driving slower than the daytime vans. In any case, not being on schedule has caused Sadove to get crowded with boisterous students, often creating a loud and distracting scene for other students in the building. Broadening access to the late night Jitney could help alleviate this problem. 

If underage students are heading downtown on the weekends whether or not they can use the Jitney, then why restrict them from using the service in the first place? You are simply forcing them to create more dangerous measures to get downtown. By allowing them to use the Jitney, you are assuring that students will safely arrive. This will also deter students from hazardously over packing the cars, as well as strongly discouraging drunk driving. Expand Jitney access for the well-being of the whole community.

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