Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How MSU students might have to adapt following Uber’s lobbying scandal

August 15, 2022
<p>Illustration by Madison Echlin</p>

Illustration by Madison Echlin

Photo by Madison Echlin | The State News

It’s no secret that MSU students utilize Uber in enormous quantities. With most students coming to school with no car, Ubers are an easy alternative to getting around campus and the surrounding cities.

However, as of last month, more than 124,000 files were leaked exposing the real story behind Uber’s rise and expansion across the globe.

According to The Guardian, Uber “flouted laws, duped police, exploited violence against drivers and secretly lobbied governments” to gain exposure and rise up the ranks.

Uber essentially collected their supporters. Scouting presidents, billionaires, prime ministers, oligarchs, and wealthy barons, the company “undercut established taxi and cab markets and put pressure on governments to rewrite laws to help pave the way” for their app exposure.  

The company paid prominent academic figures and establishments hundreds of thousands of dollars to cultivate research that would support Uber’s claims about the benefits of their economic models.

French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, helped Uber in secret as economy minister, allowing the car service direct access to him and his close staff.

It is rare that ground-breaking media relates so heavily to college students, but the Uber leaks left MSU students, in particular, questioning the integrity of even using the service.

“I’ve never really used it, but I know that it’s taken away from a lot of taxi services that are taking people's jobs away,” accounting sophomore Sia Kaltsounis said via text. “On one hand, we have the buses. But on the other, it’s really our only accessible way to get off campus.”

“It’s a bit problematic, considering so many students are constantly supporting Uber without knowing how it came to be,” human biology junior Julia Haddad said via text. “Although it provides many benefits to students, its start makes it seem very shady.”

Jo Kovach, the ASMSU President, answered a few questions on behalf of Safe Ride in regards to the campus car service's protocols and motives.

"While we do not want to comment directly about the Uber incidents because that is not our place, the ASMSU Safe Ride program works with Dean Charters and Tours to contract out vans and drivers who are interviewed and vetted by their company," Kovach said in an email. "Driver and passenger safety are a huge priority for us."

During the pandemic, Safe Ride installed plexiglass between the backseat and front seat, disinfected after each ride, required that masks be worn at all times during the ride, thoroughly disinfected vans at the end of each night, provided hand sanitizer and limited operations at peak transmission periods. 

"Our drivers also reserve the right to deny service for their safety based on a number of reasons," Kovach said in an email. "We include in our terms of service that passengers may not smoke, vape, eat, or drink alcohol in our vehicles. We also ask that passengers clean up after themselves, and any damage to the vehicles can be charged to your university student account ranging from $50 - $200. This includes, but is not limited to trash, spilled food, or the cleanup of bodily fluids."

Safe Ride also asks that proof of identity is provided when students request a ride and enter the vehicle. 

When asked whether Safe Ride was a better alternative for students to use besides Uber, Kovach said that Safe Ride is essentially a safe and free alternative to walking home in the dark all alone.

"University Safe Ride programs are proven to reduce assault-related dangers and drunk driving both on and off campus," Kovach said in an email. "Safe Ride is a non-judgemental service focused on helping students get home. If you are a minor under the influence, that does not matter. Our Safe Ride drivers are trained to be prepared for anything. Please make sure that you remain respectful throughout your ride and relay to the Safe Ride driver if you need anything."

The Safe Ride program was originally initiated by students for students. The drivers are the only members of the program that are not actually MSU students, but they are vetted by Dean Charters and Tours, so students can always feel safe getting in a Safe Ride vehicle.

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