Student Emergency Response Volunteers should keep house

By Phil Kim

Special Contributor

[Editor’s Note: Phil Kim is president of Bucknell Student Government.]

Last week, the leadership of the Student Emergency Response Volunteers (SERV) reached out to Bucknell Student Government (BSG) about the loss of their University housing on Sixth Street, Edwards House. We would like to give you some background as to what SERV has experienced here at the University and the influence that this organization has on our daily lives.

SERV and a downtown house have always gone hand-in-hand. For over a decade this organization’s home has been a place to live and run the organization effectively. Every emergency medical organization around the country responds from a central location, and Edwards House (and previously Martin House) has provided SERV with that. This living style is crucial to the way in which the organization can function in a professional manner.

This year, Residential Education and Fraternity and Sorority Affairs re-introduced the application process for the Small Houses Program on campus. SERV, which is not a formally recognized organization under BSG, is instead a wholly-funded division of the University’s Department of Public Safety. In past years, SERV has had an automatic renewal of their housing and was under the impression that this new application process was simply a matter of formality.

Taking away Edwards House from SERV threatens the functionality of an organization that truly impacts the campus environment. A house is crucial to the way in which the organization can function and allow medically-trained personnel to respond as a single professional unit to both campus and University emergencies, while at the same time serving the local fire station. Numerous modifications were made to Edwards House over the past few years to accommodate the space needed for a 24/7 fire and EMS responder unit. The house’s bunkroom, for example, serves numerous purposes such as a place for on-call responders to sleep at night.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) has certified this space as able to maintain prescription drugs and HIPPA-compliant reporting computer and database software used to communicate with the PADOH and SERV’s Medical Command. Thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies and both campus and county communications equipment are certified to be stored in a secure location in the house in which only medically-trained personnel are allowed access. For this reason, it would be a great challenge and of significant expense to move all equipment and modifications from Edwards House to an alternative location.

SERV has been offered alternative locations on campus, though moving the location of SERV’s headquarters from Edwards House to any other location on campus may add crucial minutes to a response call: time that those in danger do not have. Lastly, from our understanding, Chief of Public Safety Jason Friedberg, who oversees SERV, was never consulted or informed of this decision. Given his involvement in SERV, it would seem that a change of this magnitude would be brought to Chief Friedberg prior to the final decision.

For over 20 years, members of SERV have volunteered hundreds of hours of their lives, every week giving back to the community. SERV’s community service is of the ultimate and most personal form, literally affecting the lives of the individuals they come in contact with. SERV provides a service that, in the opinion of BSG, no organization or club can fulfill. Considering that SERV is not compensated in any way for what they do, what they turn to as their reward of service is the house in which they currently reside and the camaraderie that results from that. This house is essential to the organization.

Though BSG has no formal jurisdiction over SERV or the Small Housing process, we believe it is in the best interest of University students that SERV remain in their current location and be given the permission to reside in a proper housing facility indefinitely. With confidence from the BSG Executive Board, BSG Executive Committee, BSG Congress, SERV and Public Safety, it is with strong support that we view SERV’s work to be invaluable on our campus and should be entitled to remain in Edwards House. We strongly urge University administration to re-evaluate the Office of Residential Education’s decision and ask that SERV’s home be reinstated. Any questions or comments are welcome and may be directed to the BSG Executive Board at [email protected]

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