Temple students get a lift: Students react to SAASA and Uber’s voucher initiative

Although all vouchers from the initiative have been redeemed, students express their support for and frustrations with the promotion.

Many students did not receive free Uber rides as the code to obtain them quickly hit its limit. | JACK LARSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Matthew Morello, a sophomore bioengineering major, was able to safely return home from an Eagles tailgate after they had difficulties accessing SEPTA’s Broad Street Line earlier this month. 

Morello was able to utilize up to $20 for a safe Uber ride, thanks to the work of Student Activists Against Sexual Assault, an anti-sexual violence student org and Temple’s chapter of It’s On Us, and its partnership with Uber

Starting Sept. 22, students seeking to leave unsafe situations could redeem four $20 vouchers for rides within a nine-and-a-half-mile radius of Main Campus with a code and their Temple email. However, those who didn’t claim the code in advance were out of luck, as all of the available codes were claimed less than 72 hours after the promotion opened.

Each code immediately redeemed four $20 rides, totaling $80 per student. The initiative was designed to mitigate financial barriers for students seeking safe transportation. Students received codes on a first-claim, first-serve basis, meaning the $200,000 Uber provided for the program supported only 2,500 students’ codes, leaving the majority of students unable to claim the free rides.

While the program received positive feedback, some students were frustrated by how quickly the vouchers were claimed.

“I just think it’s really cool overall,” Morello said. “It would be great if they could somehow get more money, so more students got to experience it.” 

Dylan Rush, a junior marketing major, felt deceived by a Philadelphia news outlet that reported students could get “up to four rides worth up to $20 each.” He initially believed the code was to be used on-demand in unsafe situations and didn’t think to add it to his Uber account in advance.

“I thought that when the time comes, I have the code for it,” Rush said. “[The outlet] said it was going to be good through the end of the year. I went to go and add [the code] to my account, and it was like, ‘All of the rides have been taken.’ That was just really upsetting to me.”

Leading up to the debut of the rideshare program, Ava Seene, SAASA’s sorority representative, visited Greek life chapters on campus to raise awareness about another SAASA initiative:  Callisto Vault, a database for sexual violence survivors to log assaults. 

While presenting, Senne also emphasized the importance of the ride-share initiative. Sorority members are 74 percent more likely to experience sexual assault compared to non-affiliated peers, according to OurWave, an organization supporting sexual assault survivors. 

“The reactions were always very positive, everyone was very excited to be able to use this and to have that resource if they need it,” said Seene, a junior political science major. “It’s just nice to know if you were ever in that situation, or had a sister in that situation or a friend that you would be able to not have to worry about money and just get them out of that situation into a safe space.”

Upon announcing SAASA’s collaboration with Uber, Ray Epstein, founder and president of SAASA, received an outpour of support from students via text and Instagram direct messages. 

“The reaction was really overwhelmingly positive and we got a lot of kind direct messages that made me feel really validated about all the work that we put in for it,” said Epstein, a junior English and communication and social influence major. “I’m just happy that we could help keep some people safe.”

As the initial program was successful, Uber and IOU plan to continue their relationship with Temple and students are excited to see what comes next. Epstein and Tracey Vitchers, executive director of IOU, are holding another collaborative event Oct. 25 from 4-6 p.m. in Room 200AB of the Howard Gittis Student Center. The event will feature a panel on navigating campus safety and will also have food, games and prizes.

Although SAASA is only one year old, Temple’s chapter is regarded as one of the top IOU programs nationwide, said Vitchers, who helped SAASA secure the Uber initiative. 

“We really want to make sure that we are partnering with campuses that have strong chapters that we want to uplift because of their really good work, and SAASA has done incredible work at Temple over the last couple of years,” Vitchers said. “This was really a way to help uplift and honor the work of the chapter to help elevate them to the next level of their organizing and activism.”

If students want to see more of this partnership, they can submit any feedback they have and if they feel comfortable, a video testimonial to SAASA’s survey, Epstein said.

“The most important thing is positive feedback,” Epstein said. “We have a Google Drive folder of all the positive messages, obviously redacting personal information, to share with Uber so that we can continue partnerships like this, which is what Uber and IOU made clear to us, to continue the partnership is to show that it’s working.”

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