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Shortage of Van Drivers Hamper Schedule For Service Learning

By Megan Snow ’20

Staff Writer


Merrimack is known for combining its Augustinian values with a multitude of service learning opportunities for students in surrounding areas. All service learning locations are within a 30-minute drive of campus, however many students do not have their own car on campus. Because of this, Merrimack provides transportation through the Service Learning Center.

This transportation service has proved to be helpful, but many students say they have run into problems with the transportation provided.

“I’d rather take the van because it saves me money on gas, but when the van is late to pick us up in Methuen, I never get to class on time,” said Junior Annie Hudson.

Freshman Ashley Searing has also had bad experiences with the schedule.

“I get out of my service learning at 12:30 p.m., but the van usually doesn’t show up until 1 p.m., which makes me late to class every time,” Searing said.

The Service Learning Center hires Merrimack students to drive the vans. This is considered a work study job and driver schedules are based upon how much they are willing to work per week.

Although this is a great work study opportunity for students that are looking to take a drive off campus, there are requirements. Drivers must be 20 years old, have a clean driving record, and have had their license for two years prior to applying for this position. Van drivers are also asked to attend training with campus police and paperwork is also required. Strict rules regarding texting and driving are put into place and drivers must follow Massachusetts’ driving laws. First offense of texting and driving is a warning and the second offense is termination of the job.

Several students said they have been in a van and have witnessed a driver on his or her phone while on the road. These kinds of actions are forbidden within the SLC, but it does not get reported. Students who experience this during their van rides are encouraged to speak up and report incidents of distracted driving to the police or SLC.

The SLC appears to have control over their rules and obligations, but scheduling is a different story.

The SLC schedules people based on who is available, said Mary McHugh, director of the Stevens Service Learning Center. If someone at the top of the list is unavailable to drive, they move down the list until someone is available to drive, she said.

Another problem the SLC has run into has been a lack of drivers, she said.

“We had a lot of seniors who were drivers last year, and since they’ve graduated, we don’t have too many student drivers available this semester. The age requirement is partially a downfall, but it’s to keep our students safe,” McHugh said.