Gopher Chauffeur service suspended until further notice

Many students know Gopher Chauffeur for its safe rides, laid-back drivers and good music. But this fall, Gopher Chauffeur will not offer rides to students.

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A Gopher Chauffeur driver makes their rounds on Feb. 5, 2012.

Nat Jacobwith

Boynton Health Service announced its suspension of the Gopher Chauffeur service for the fall semester due to COVID-19, leaving some students out of work.

Gopher Chauffeur is a free ride service available to students within the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. The service will not be available this upcoming semester and will not assist with the airport pickups for international students that take place every August. While the service is not operational, Gopher Chauffeur’s student employees will be out of work. 

“Gopher Chauffeur will be suspended for the fall semester due to challenges presented by COVID-19,” Boynton Director of Marketing and Communications Maurice Perkins said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “Spring semester service will be evaluated at a later date. Currently, alternatives are being explored by the University. However, no definite plans have been developed at this time.”

Recent University graduate Szilvi Nador worked for Gopher Chauffeur throughout her junior and senior years. Nador planned to work as much as possible and save money before graduating as she prepares for her accounting certification exams, but she was not able to return to work after spring break due to the pandemic. 

Nador said while her managers did a good job at keeping employees informed as Boynton managed its pandemic response, losing her job changed her plans and earning potential as graduation approached.

Nador said working for Gopher Chauffeur helped her gain skills she would not have otherwise learned as part of her studies, and the job was an incredibly valuable experience. Students are trained on how to react in emergency situations and receive First Aid training and a CPR certification, she said. 

“Being a business student, I would not have gotten that certification,” Nador said. 

University fifth-year student Elizabeth Renz said working at Gopher Chauffeur helped her figure out what she wanted to do professionally after college and that she has loved working in such a “unique job” during college. She planned to work for Gopher Chauffeur until she graduated, and it was a big shock to find out that the service shut down. 

Renz said she had been getting most of her information from Gopher Chauffeur’s website, which is where she learned that its August airport service would not be running this summer. When management officially reached out to employees that the service would not be running, she said it was still surprising. 

One of the reasons Renz said she liked working for Gopher Chauffeur is the scheduling flexibility afforded by working in the evenings. While Boynton is determining potential alternatives to the service, Renz said she is unsure what will happen to her position.

“I think there are at least 50 employees of students on the employee contact sheet,” Renz said. “A lot of us relied on it for our main source of income because the hours are so flexible.”

Renz said she used Gopher Chauffeur whenever she needed a safe ride home at night, and it was also her primary source of income and a dream college job for her. Now, it is unclear when the service will start up again. 

“I was just really hoping to be working,” Renz said.