Goodman: Summer internship underscores need for U-Passes for all Northwestern students

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Meredith Goodman, Summer Columnist

During my internship this summer in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, I have learned to appreciate my daily commute on the Purple Line Express — a chunk of relaxing quiet time in a hectic work day. For my commute, I pay $100 a month for a 30-day pass from CVS or Walmart, which admittedly is much less than what I would spend on gas traveling to and from an internship back home in Texas. But when my fellow intern from DePaul told me that she could receive a discounted pass called the “U-Pass” for about $100, I wondered why Northwestern didn’t offer this option to me.

She explained that for $100, her U-Pass allowed her unlimited CTA rides into Chicago for the period of a school session (in DePaul’s case, the summer quarter of about three months). If I were to receive a U-Pass for my summer internship (which is technically part of a Chicago Field Studies class through Weinberg), I would save about $200 for three months of commuting downtown.

In the University’s defense, U-Passes are available for some students in certain schools. Offering U-Passes for these schools makes sense, as students will travel to parts of Chicago for some classes or assignments. But when I asked the student service booth at Norris about a U-Pass for my summer internship affiliated with a Weinberg class, I was informed that passes were not available for Weinberg students.

If U-Passes are offered to a segment of the student population, it is only fair to offer them to all undergraduate students. A friend in Bienen once complained to me that as part of being an assistant teacher for a music education course in Chicago, she had to bring her car to campus and pay, completely unsubsidized, for gas to transport herself to the school. SESP and Weinberg students often take internships in Chicago or its suburbs as part of class and should be offered subsidized transportation. Communication students often have theater workshops or performances in the city and should also be offered a U-Pass.

To be fair, if students want to explore Chicago on their own time, then they should pay the $2.25-per-ride fee to engage in all the city has to offer. But students in all undergraduate schools take internships in Chicago and the surrounding areas during their four years at NU, and they should receive some help with transportation costs. With so many other Chicago colleges supporting the U-Pass program, NU should jump on board and commit to affordable access to a world-class city for all its students.

Meredith Goodman is a rising Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected]northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, leave a comment or send a letter to the editor to [email protected].