With a considerable amount of attention centered on the recent death of Robby Schartner, a Manhattanville student who was killed by a drunk driver on Oct. 9, the college’s student body has reignited a debate about the school’s shuttle bus service.
Schartner, a 21-year-old junior, was struck and killed by Emma Fox, of Rye, while walking along Westchester Avenue in White Plains in the early morning hours. It is believed that Schartner was walking back to campus after a night out on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains.
According to police, Fox, 24, had been traveling eastbound on Westchester Avenue at about 5 a.m. when she fatally hit Schartner with her car, a 2012 Nissan Sentra.
White Plains police reported that Fox had been intoxicated at the time of the incident and was measured with a blood alcohol of 0.21; the legal limit in New York state is 0.08.
In the aftermath of the tragic event, Manhattanville students are pointing to last year’s controversial change by the school administration to alter the bus service schedule.
“What’s it going to take for the school to realize that having transportation provided is for our own safety?” asked Jess Cowle, a junior at the college, which is located in Purchase.
On Aug. 21, 2015, Sharlise Smith-Rodriguez, the college’s dean of students, sent a welcome letter to the student body alerting them of upcoming events and changes in policy for the 2015-16 academic year. According to the memo, which was delivered as a blast email, the school changed the schedule for the Valiant Express.
The bus service changes included the addition of four early morning runs to transport students from the college to and from White Plains from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Additionally, the last two weekend runs would be eliminated.
“I get why they changed the hours because they didn’t want to be seen as encouraging drinking,” said Gianni Mogrovejo, a senior at the college. “But, I’ve had friends who have had to walk back to campus at night, which is extremely unsafe. By not having those hours, you’re waiting for an accident to happen; and it may have already happened with the recent loss the school took.”
Prior to the service changes, the Valiant Express ran until 3:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Since the changes, the final bus on Fridays and Saturdays, which transports students from downtown White Plains back to campus, comes at 1:30 a.m.
According to J.J. Pryor, the college’s managing director of the office of communications, the college enacted the bus service changes in order to follow the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986. Pryor told the Review that if an institution is aware of on-campus or off-campus conduct that encourages the use of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and does not take active steps to implement programs to prevent such abuse, it could lose federal financial assistance as a result of the law.
However, according to Mogrovejo, despite its reputation for transporting students under the influence, the late night weekend shuttle service, which was once deemed as the “drunk bus,” serves much more of purpose than escorting drunk students back to campus. He said many students utilized the late night service to travel back to campus after returning to White Plains from their afternoon internships in New York City.
Mogrovejo added that some students just enjoy hanging out in the downtown area to see a late night movie at the City Center 15: Cinema de Lux, or to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, both located on Mamaroneck Avenue.
While students have continuously voiced their frustration about the school’s new bus schedule, it is currently unclear whether or not the college will take immediate action to resolve the students’ demands.
According to Pryor, during an “extensive discussion” on Oct. 19, senior school administration officials deliberated on possible modifications to the Valiant Express.
Smith-Rodriguez, who is also the chairwoman of the Manhattanville At Risk Committee, a group responsible for recommending actions in accord with existing college policies, declined comment.
Fox is currently being held on $100,000 bail in the Westchester County jail and is due back in court on Nov. 1.