New changes coming for Night Owls

Maintenance woes and smaller staff have Night Owls off to a bumpy start


Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

Patrick Martin, News Editor

It began in 1993 as a way to provide a safe ride from dangers in the shadows on campus, but lately students are using the service for a free lift because they don’t want to walk.

The nightly safety golf cart ride, Night Owls, is so popular that they receive around 300 calls on any given night, according to Sasha Therlonge, director of the program.

“We’ve been abused and turned into a convenience service,” Therlonge said. ”These phones ring non-stop.”

Therlonge said she sees kids getting a ride from the Student Union to Algonquin Hall or Heritage Park Towers using the excuse that they’re sick or hurt. She said those are rides that could go to people who are feeling unsafe.

With the increase in students, especially the freshman population, Therlonge thinks the service is being exploited.

Night Owls’ mission, according to their 2015 statement, “is to provide safe, convenient and efficient student transportation service on the Boca Raton campus of FAU.”

Their operating hours are Monday through Friday, 6:45 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the fall and spring semesters, and 6:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. in the summer semester.

Therlonge said the recent budget cuts have put a strain on the program.

Night Owls, a nightly safety service that transpots students around the Boca Raton Campus, began in 1993. Jasmyn Williams | Contributing Photographer
Night Owls, a nightly safety service that transports students around the Boca Raton Campus, began in 1993. Jasmyn Williams | Contributing Photographer

Their budget, which includes paid employees, repairs and maintenance, promotional items and miscellaneous purchases like office supplies and furniture, is $121,587, according to their audit.

A quarter of this budget is used for expenses, with $20,000 put to repairs and maintenance.

One cart alone has had more than $7,900 in repairs, according to the audit.

Night Owls currently employs seven drivers but has the potential to employ 15, along with one director, the audit states.

To get a better understanding, a reporter rode the safety service to get a better feel for how it runs.


Despite the program having struggles, some drivers enjoy their work transporting students around campus late into the night.

A driver outfitted in a red shirt and reflective vest, armed with a six-passenger golf cart, just dropped off one of his passengers — a pretty girl that gave him her number at the end of the drive.

His vest barely fits his burly chest and his face resembles a raccoon with a white sunglass outline around his eyes.

The tan was a result of tailgating at a football game the previous Sunday with his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.

“I just texted her after work and she came over that night,” David Lewinsohn, a 23-year-old senior majoring in education said.

Prospective drivers need a grade point average of at least 2.5, a valid driver’s license and must go through a training process that involves shadowing a veteran driver.

Lewinsohn said getting the girl’s number was rare but he’s seen his fair share of eccentric and rowdy passengers while driving for the service paid for by students’ tuition through their activities and service fees.


The A&S fee of $12.32 is taken out of students’ tuition “to benefit the student body,” according to the FAU Student Affairs site.

The service is student-run and law enforcement doesn’t interfere.


Cody Lucas, a junior majoring in business, was just picked up at the Rec Center. He’s over 6 feet tall and needs to be dropped off near the president’s house by 20th Street.

Lucas has a bad knee and walks with an observable limp. His navy blue FAU shirt has a light coat of sweat and he’s wearing white compression braces on both of his knees.

He jokes around with another passenger about being “uncapable” to walk around campus.

Lucas was a veteran passenger but remembers one ride involving two very inebriated women.

“I was riding last year and saw a girl just tumble out of the cart,” Lucas said trying to hold back laughter. “The other girl was laughing so hard she almost fell out too.”

They were pretty obnoxious he said, and really loud.

The driver, Lewinsohn, said drunk passengers aren’t uncommon, especially when the school holds sorority events.


The director of Night Owls has proposed a plan to set up stops around campus, on top of a caller dispatch system.

Therlonge said she will bring the new proposition up during the next Board of Directors meeting.

The route system will have two designated carts driving to each stop, but one issue is slowing down the plan.

“We can’t run the route system because there aren’t enough drivers,” Boca Campus Governor Christopher Ferreira said.

Ferreira is responsible for the Night Owls program.

“I’ll admit, we’re off to a bumpy start,” he said.

Another problem the service was called out on during their audit was accountability and maintenance.

Two of the carts weren’t operational, and a golf cart tire exchange costs Night Owls about $150 dollars per tire.

Ferreira said one way the service will work on accountability is by filing incident reports and following the operations guide book.

The recommendations put forth after the audit were to develop a logging system for all rides and a better accountability system for maintenance problems.

As for the pricey tire changes, the recommendation is to replace the tires with a stronger off-road tire.

Therlonge has also interviewed and identified someone to take care of golf cart maintenance. The job consists of a person ensuring all carts are operating and monitoring all incidents requiring repair.