Student body leaders enact unworkable plan

“Don’t naively ‘trust your fellow man.’ ” Fliers advising just that have been hanging in the UC’s girls locker room since August, when two thefts occurred there on the same day.

Unfortunately, trusting our fellow man is exactly what Karl Sjogren and Andrea Hamilton intend to do. Their newest initiative, the Public Rec Program Pilot Study, is set to start in late March or early April. The program is intended to help students get to class on time, encourage outdoor activities, and increase the accessibility of places like Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. Oh yeah, and to test the limits of our community’s moral code.

The plan: Distribute 45 bikes and 10 containers of outdoor equipment throughout the campus for student use. Unlocked. The failsafe: The honor system. And plaid.

This program is impractical for an urban campus like Carnegie Mellon’s. Your “fellow man” is more than just your classmates, faculty members, and administrators — it’s an entire city. There’s no wall separating our campus from its surrounding area. We’re not suggesting we need one; we just don’t think we should leave free toys and bikes throughout the campus, ripe for the taking. Theft can happen at a party, it can happen in a dorm, and — as University Police has been eager to inform us — it can happen in a locker room. And if unlocked bikes and equipment boxes show up on campus, it can certainly happen on the Cut.

Sjogren and Hamilton are opposed to the idea of installing card readers to the bike racks and boxes. They’ve cited that such an addition would cost more than it was worth. But isn’t it a bigger waste of money to pay for 45 bikes and watch their numbers dwindle?

Part of the pilot is to paint the bikes, frisbees, and other items of gratis athletic equipment in the style of Tartan plaid. If the items are plaid-covered, Sjogren and Hamilton argued, nobody will want to steal them.

We see two problems with this. First of all, why would we want our campus to host a fleet of bicycles so ugly that no one would even steal them? Secondly, someone will want to steal them; before anyone has a chance to catch them plaid-handed, our guess is that the majority of thieves will be smart enough to invest in a paint job. If you Google “college,” “bicycles,” and “unlocked,” the vast majority of the results are university crime reports.

One example of a more appropriate school to host this kind of experiment is St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Located in rural St. Mary’s City, Md., the college has less than 2000 undergrads, according to As stated on St. Mary’s website, the school added 25 unlocked bicycles to its campus in September of 2006 in an effort to go “green.” It’s conceivable that at a certain type of school — both small and isolated from the outside world — such a plan would be a good one. But we’re not that type of school. Instituting policies as if we were will not make us that type of school. That would be like wearing shorts and flip-flops in the winter in the hopes of sunny days.

Carnegie Mellon has a lot to offer, but we can’t be everything. If students were looking for a cozy, leave-your-doors-unlocked kind of institution, they probably would have gone elsewhere. Sjogren and Hamilton’s Public Rec Program Pilot Study will be a waste of money for our urban campus.