If you ask UCF students what they find most annoying about campus, chances are they will say with conviction: parking. With thousands of students, faculty and staff on campus each day, finding an optimal parking spot doesn’t exactly put the odds in anyone's favor.
To alleviate the stress during the first week of classes, Central Florida Hillel, the center for Jewish student life at UCF, implemented 'Jewber' from August 22 through August 26.
Jewber, inspired by Uber, reflects the idea of the popular transportation system in that you text a particular number with your name, location, where you’d like to go and when. Then, they pick you up.
The new service is specifically for the UCF community, and — this being perhaps its most appealing feature to college students — it’s offered free of charge.
The mode of transportation? Two zippy golf carts complete with the blue-and-white Israeli flags flapping from their secure homes on the back railings.
Danielle McKinstry, Hillel’s engagement associate, came up with the idea after giving a ride to some students who "flagged her down" on campus in the spring semester.
“It was two of our students,” McKinstry said. "And they were like, ‘You guys should really do this throughout the year.’”
The duo told her that if she did this, she would basically be an Uber, which in turn prompted her to coin the term Jewber. Hillel even made Jewber signs, which resembled the Uber font and replaced the “U” in the logo with the six-pointed Star of David.
“I decided that we were going to do it for the first week of school, every single day," McKinstry said. "And I did not think it was going to get this much hype."
Text after text rolled in as students requested rides to and from any point on, and sometimes off, campus. To aid in organization, Jessica Sugarman, Hillel’s social media specialist, had the foresight to use Text Me!, a texting app that allows the group to text from one specific number and account.
“We thought it might be easier instead of them texting each of us individually, because we’ve been swapping out drivers as well,” Sugarman said. “We came up with a texting app, and we’ve been publicizing that number.”
And students have been reaping the benefits. While McKinstry confessed they have yet to sit down and figured out the numbers, earlier that week she thought they had already given about 75 rides.
“We really want to be that home away from home for any student,” McKinstry said. “So our events are open to anyone.”
Megan Miller, a sophomore and biomedical sciences major, laughingly said she used Jewber out of laziness on Friday. As an active Hillel member, she also wanted to take advantage of the service before it ended.
“Everyone should use it,”Miller. said “It’s hot outside.”
Little did she know, that very day Hillel professionals had a team meeting about continuing the service twice a week for the entire semester.
Overall, Jewber’s inventor considered it a massive success and said the only thing she would change would be confirming that the golf carts were sufficiently charged each time they were driven. McKinstry recalled having to be towed back to Hillel headquarters after her cart’s battery nearly died from giving so many rides.
So, if you find yourself in a classic UCF parking fiasco, feel free to text Jewber at 407-337-1606. The carts are street legal, so remember to buckle up.