The Uber Dilemma at OES

By Asa Brown

Throughout the few and embattled years of Uber and amidst controversy, angry cab drivers, and PR crises, the company has always refused to go with the idea of having background checks and training for drivers.

Perhaps this is why the use of Uber or other similar services, such as Lyft, for OES students has been frowned down upon by faculty.

In fact, dorm students are banned from using Uber and Lyft. Henry B ‘19, who is a dorm student, said that dorm students were allowed to use a taxi service “as long as it’s not Uber or Lyft” However, it is hard to argue with the convenience that car-sharing services bring. Although a daily ride from Uber or Lyft can get expensive quickly, often times it is the best alternative. And while making an Uber wait in the pick-up line is a quick way to get you a low rating, Uber is a great way for people to get home if the buses can’t serve them.

It is certainly not hard to order and ride an Uber, even on the OES campus, and Uber is still used. Wouldn’t you think that OES would want to support the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Uber and Lyft?  If Uber and other ride-sharing services are so contentious then why and how do people use them?

“I think that it is just for people who want convenience, and that is why they use Uber” says Noah W. Although many may use Uber outside of school, “that’s not really what we are worried about” says Deri Bash, the associate head of Upper School and director of residential life here at OES. According to Bash, the more important thing is making sure dorm students don’t use it to get around in Portland. “It is an issue because for the dorm parents, we aren’t legally parents” says Bash.

OES’s concerns make sense. They are, at least in part, responsible for students. If students go off campus during the day, they are required to sign out, and upperclassmen aren’t allowed to take freshman off campus. Also, bringing a stranger on campus poses a threat, especially with a Lower School nearby. Even Uber is fearful of the legal nightmare that a minor riding in an Uber could cause. According to Uber’s community guidelines, “Only adults can have an Uber rider account. If your child is using your account, a parent or guardian must be with them at all times.”

However, many other schools tolerate, and even encourage the use of Uber. Although there are ample reasons why Uber isn’t allowed, other high schools treat their students as adults who can make their own decisions surrounding car-sharing services.

But isn’t that a bigger issue than Uber at all? If OES can’t trust its students to make a decision about their use of car-sharing services, then what can they trust their students to make decisions about as they approach adulthood? The real problem is the danger posed to the Lower School by letting Uber and Lyft run free in the Upper School. It’s certainly an issue.