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Buzz Rides loses fight for student fees

From left to right, co-founders of Buzz Rides Parker Draughon (President), a Business Administration and Romance Languages major from Atlanta, Ga., and Joey Skavroneck (CEO), a Business Administration major from Waxhaw, N.C., stand with Chris Jones (CFO), a Business Administration major from Charlotte, N.C.
From left to right, co-founders of Buzz Rides Parker Draughon (President), a Business Administration and Romance Languages major from Atlanta, Ga., and Joey Skavroneck (CEO), a Business Administration major from Waxhaw, N.C., stand with Chris Jones (CFO), a Business Administration major from Charlotte, N.C.

“We rode around in these tuk-tuks, which are tiny, little open air taxis. We thought it’d be fun to bring that back,” Draughon said.

But Student Congress passed a bill Tuesday banning the Student Safety and Security Committee from giving student fee money to for-profit groups, such as Buzz Rides.

Buzz Rides offers students who live off campus free rides home in electric cars between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. It gave 20,000 rides to students during the 2013-14 school year and cut down on approximately 50,000 pounds of carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions, Draughon said.

Skavroneck and Draughon said they started working to get money from the committee in fall 2013.

Tyler Jacon, who was chairman of the Safety and Security Committee last year, said Skavroneck and Draughon tried to become a recognized student group and, when that failed, tried to secure funding from the committee through the Campus Y.

“We were pretty disappointed in the process,” Skavroneck said. “We had been approved for the funding multiple times, and one or two people in student government didn’t want that to happen ... In the end, they had the power to shut it down.”

“It’s a shame,” he said. “And when you cut funding in these areas of student safety when we need it more than ever, it’s going to take a tragedy to wake up Student Congress and let them know that we need more resources in late-night safety for students.”

Joshua Aristy, Finance Committee chairman of Student Congress, said he thinks it matters whether student fee money goes to a for-profit business.

“It’s very important to remember that many student organizations — almost all of them — are nonprofit,” he said. “Because their focus is not on making money but on changing the community and providing services, an example of this would be SafeWalk.”

He said Buzz Rides and SafeWalk are two distinct programs.

“They are programs that both deal with student safety but in very different ways,” he said. “Buzz Rides picks people up from bars and SafeWalk walks people back from libraries.”

Skavroneck said student fee money is going to eventually end up in the hands of for-profit businesses.

“Every time money is going to be given indirectly to a T-shirt company for T-shirts, you can argue that’s for individual gain or that’s going for a for-profit company,” he said. “It’s this constant notation that for-profit equals bad and nonprofit equals good, and the CEOs of some nonprofits make millions.”

In the meantime, Skavroneck said Buzz Rides will keep working to find other sources of funding to prepare itself for the future.

“Every single year we add freshmen to the Buzz Rides team. We want Buzz Rides to be something that we can come back to years from now and see that it’s still running.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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