The University of Washington’s “U-Pass” program allows students the opportunity to save money on transportation. At first, it seems like a steal. For just $45 a quarter, you can get unlimited access to all local transit buses. You can even ride the The Sounder at no additional cost! There’s just one small thing: public transportation isn’t always a pleasant experience. As Amy Morris points out, “It may seem like cheap transportation, but public transportation can come with a price.”
I know that price all too well, and so do countless other students, particularly women. “One of the sad things about public transportation is the lack of respect for women,” Morris stated. She recalls how at one point, things got so bad to where she would purposefully make herself appear unattractive so that the men on the bus would leave her alone. “I remember my first year at UWT and how I had to avoid being harassed by putting my makeup on at school.” There is something incredibly wrong when a woman feels the need to alter her appearance just to avoid unwanted behavior.
If you think incidents like these are rare occurrences, think again. Gina Cabiddu is another UWT student who has experienced this same type of issue. She recalls that when she rode the #1, there was a man on there who kept asking if she had a boyfriend and kept trying to hold her hand. “After that, once I learned what his schedule was […] I just took a different bus or went at a different time.” When I asked Cabiddu if this inconvenienced her, she replied, “It did somewhat. I’m not going to lie.”
Since simply talking about sexual harassment is not enough to fix the problem, I brought this issue to the attention of ASUWT Senator Seth Lundgaard. Senator Lundgaard serves on the Student Services Committee and has taken an active role in encouraging students to use public transportation. I asked him what steps students should take if an individual is making them feel uncomfortable on the bus. “You should tell the bus driver. They have security waiting at stops, at the transportation depots, specifically for that reason,” he stated. He went on to say that part of the problem is that victims are reluctant to get involved because they don’t want to make a scene. As a result, victims often end up suffering in silence. “If you don’t make drama, if you don’t make the person understand that their behavior is unacceptable, then they’ll just keep doing it.”
Senator Lundgaard makes a key point because often times when we’re put into an uncomfortable situation, we tell ourselves to just “deal with it.” It’s time to reverse that ideology once and for all. Instead of putting up with inappropriate behavior, make an effort to call attention to it. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire others to do the same.