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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Safety bus restricted

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor

Friday, March 19, 2004

Although there was a bus sponsored by St. Olaf Mothers Against Drunk Driving (SOMADD) taking students home from the L&M Bar in Dundas Wednesday (St. Patricks Day), a recent decision made by the St. Olaf administration restricts such "safety buses" from transporting students to the bar.

Lauren Wendt 04, one of the co-founders of SOMADD, said that the groups intention was "to provide drivers and riders with an alternative form of transportation & on the deadliest night on the road." This form of transportation was originally was going to be a bus that ran continually between St. Olaf and the L&M between 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday night.

After presenting the idea at last Thursdays Senate meeting, Wendt and co-founder Julia Drake 04 said they received an overwhelmingly popular response to the proposal from senators.

Last Friday, however, Dean of Students Greg Kneser consulted President Christopher Thomforde and Dean and Provost James May, as well as the local MADD chapter in the state, before deciding that "for Wednesday and for the future, no bus can go to an establishment that sells alcohol," Wendt said.

Kneser explained that the administrations decision is in compliance with the state and national MADD policies.

"We cant be involved in any way, shape or form in getting people to the bar," Kneser said. "I know the organization and trust them and their judgment."

While Kneser expressed a sincere interest in students safety, he questioned whether a bus to the bar would be the best route for the college to take.

"It sends a message that its okay to drink irresponsibly and that its someone elses responsibility to get [students] home," Kneser said. "Shouldnt our students be like everyone else in the community and find a safe way home on their own?"

IDOCS Senator Nathan Soland 04, who coordinated SOMADDs presentation at Senate last week, said that he was dissatisfied with the administrations recent decision.

"More needs to be done," Soland said. "As [Wendt and Drake] pointed out [at the Senate meeting], 10 percent of people arent getting the message. If we dont provide a safe ride, drunk driving will continue."

Wendt also expressed similar sentiments concerning the effectiveness of having a bus that only runs back from the bar.

"I believe that the school does not understand that allowing SOMADD to sponsor a bus home is not a sufficient way to promote safety and teaching responsibility on the roads," Wendt said.

This week, SOMADD and the local chapter of MADD funded the bus, which ran continuously from the L&M in Dundas to St. Olaf between 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on St. Patricks Day. In the future, however, the group will not be able to afford a weekly bus.

Soland said that, recently, Senate has been looking into different ways to organize safe rides and now is considering SOMADDs proposed model seriously. Possible funding options include everything from charging students who ride the bus to private donors or even the L&M itself.

"The general consensus is that people are concerned, do know whats going on and are ready to take a stand," Soland said. "The student government should take a positive, pro-active stance to stop this negative thing that is happening."

Drake said that SOMADD plans on working with the Senates Public Safety Commission to investigate al-ternative ways for students to get to the bar safely. Drake said that she also hopes to work with MADD in "helping them understand the importance of providing transportation to and from a dry campus where students have to drive to get to a bar in order to drink."

Wendt added that she hopes that more students get involved in the dialogue about drunk driving on campus.

"The majority of St. Olaf students are responsible, but some arent," Wendt said. "We want to protect those who are safe and get the message out to others as well&.We hope to continue the discussion so that more people find out about it."

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