Effort to shuttle for safety shrouded in silence

UB Stampede now ferries students to and from The U – just don’t ask why

On February 6, 2014

An otherwise practical effort at dealing with the realities of college partying habits has turned into a political football game for the administration.

Through an agreement more secretive than necessary, the UB Stampede will now stop at Maple Ridge plaza on (Thirsty) Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m. until 3 a.m. College students hungry for great deals at Subway and Taco Bell, movies and popcorn at AMC Maple Ridge and brand-name quality furniture at Value City frequent the plaza.

Coincidentally, there also happens to be a club and bar in the plaza, interestingly called The U.

UB's Parking and Transportation Serviceshas been less than forthcoming with comments to The Spectrum on the matter. "Student safety is the goal," said Assistant Director Chris Austin - an oft said, though vacuous, phrase. Safety from what exactly - students gorged on Chalupas getting behind the wheel? Does the university not want students dragging their new particleboard armoires the long mile to the dorms?

Officials wouldn't tell us, but given that the majority of Maple Ridge's fine establishments close long before 3 a.m., we can only speculate the buses are meant for - gasp - drunk students returning from a night of partying.

Jimmy Spezzano, the owner of The U, told The Spectrum that his bar is "working in conjunction with the UB Stampede on this venture and will be available for comment in the near future."

This is hardly a matter to criticize. The fact is that The U does a far better job preventing underage drinking than its former South Campus counterparts. The scourge of drunk driving has plagued the campus long enough. It not only puts those behind the wheel in danger, but also those innocently along for the ride or sharing the road.

The busing plan certainly opens the university to criticism from utopians on whether the administration is just providing an avenue for student drinking, a pass not only enabling partying but encouraging it. Criticism from other, less-visited bars may also come with claims of favoritism.

But are these attacks warranted? Are they substantiated by anything more than false presumptions and rosy outlooks irreconcilable with reality?

No, they are not.

Call this what it is - a bus for students to take between campus and a popular bar, and a plan to reduce the attractiveness of driving drunk after a night of partying. This does not enable drinking, but allows safety; it does not encourage partying, but discourages getting behind the wheel drunk.

The U likely sees this as a positive business move; conceivably, it will increase traffic to the bar. Taco Bell employees likely fear the same - raucous, rabble-rousing students tend to be testy over their Gorditas.

This is hardly a reason to disapprove of the new stop along the route between centers of learning, nor is it a reason to hide behind refrains of "no comment." The university should be promoting the new bus stop. A nonsensical, opaque policy is what needs to change.

Consistency is necessary, as well. Despite past claims by Dennis Black, the vice president for University Life and Services, of "not [being] in the protection business" regarding students off campus, this new effort at stemming drunk driving implies the university feels differently.

Commendably so - a campus that chooses to ignore the rowdy utopian masses and instead meets realities as they exist on the ground, a campus that takes on the messiness of real life (particularly at "shot o'clock") is long overdue.


email: editorial@ubspectrum.com

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