To scoot or not to scoot?
Jonah Tran | Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Notre Dame is a big university. Spanning 1,250 acres with about 170 buildings, our campus may at times appear as a ground for hiking rather than strolling. First-years especially know all too well the laborious, time-consuming, daily walks from North Quad to DeBartolo Hall. And so, how does one overcome the locomotion issue?
You are probably thinking to yourself: “Wait! I see plenty of bikes parked outside classrooms and skateboards illicitly stored in dorm hallways.” To that, I say I have seen an equal number of bikes parked among the sprawling branches of a tree and skateboards constructed of a jerry-rigged 2×4. It is quite apparent that scooters are the most common and safest form of transportation across campus. However, not every student has a scooter to ride to class. Why is that so? I offer a few explanations for why there are not over 8,000 scooters on campus.
The most obvious reason is one of spatial logistics.
Why should someone living in South Quad need a scooter to scoot 100 yards to South Dining Hall and then scoot another 150 yards to their next class? The same applies to any student living near their classes or areas of activity. In this case, it would be unnecessary, even unreasonable for someone to need a scooter. What if one cannot afford a scooter? Often costing hundreds of dollars, scooters are a significant investment that many students are quite frankly not able to fit within their or their family’s budgets. It is an unfortunate reality that not every Notre Dame student has equal access to simple possessions that facilitate transportation. The University is dedicated to bridging socioeconomic gaps through generous financial aid and scholarship programs and promoting equity, especially among students of historically underserved backgrounds. These initiatives are fantastic, even necessary for defraying academic costs, but they do not cover the cost of purchasing transportation on or off campus. Perhaps in the next four years, there might be a student-led initiative to fundraise for campus transportation for any student who needs a scooter but cannot afford one.
The next reason is from personal experience. I remember, quite vividly, the multiple occasions on commutes when I heard the droning melody of an electric scooter behind me accompanied by the jingling harmony of a collection of lanyards. Suddenly, a whirl of wind rushes past me at 15 miles per hour. I am displaced a few feet off the sidewalk and glare hopelessly at the Notre Dame athlete bag gradually disappearing in the distance. Somehow or some way, every student-athlete seems to own an electric scooter with a customary name/sport tag to travel to classes and athletic facilities, all of which are quite a distance from dorm halls. Now, I do not expect Notre Dame to present me with a brand-new electric scooter with a red ribbon tied to the handle. I have no role in contributing to potential national championships. But for the rest of the student population like me who are not athletically gifted, I sense a resulting stigma behind using a scooter.
Some might contrive that regular students are attempting to impersonate student-athletes. Others might think that a regular student does not need a scooter to condense multiple 15- to 20-minute walks to each class. Whatever the case is, there is certainly an unspoken pressure to not use a scooter as a student living on campus, even if it makes your life more difficult than it must be. The class commute social norm is to not attract attention to yourself, to get from point A to point B within the 15-minute time interval and to blend in. Standing at least a foot taller and traveling 12 miles per hour faster than your neighboring commuters is a surefire way to draw unwarranted attention. My resolution to the question “to scoot or not to scoot” is complex.
Student-athletes? Yes, they deserve to scoot around however they please. (Although, I would still like to know how every one of them magically gets a scooter.)
Regular students? Yes and no, depending on the circumstance. Not riding a scooter should be purely out of choice, uninfluenced by a financial situation or social pressure. Put simply, if you think you need a scooter, you should be able to purchase one and ride to your heart’s desire.
The more common scooters become among regular students, the more attention drawn to the financial gaps and stigma concerning transportation. Until that happens, I along with many others will slip on their sneakers, tie the laces and set out bravely to the other side of campus for class.
Jonah Tran is a sophomore at Notre Dame double majoring in Finance and Classics with a minor in Constitutional Studies. He prides himself on sarcasm and his home — the free state of Florida. You can contact Jonah by email at [email protected].
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.