How Often Does Boss Take Students to Bars?

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s student transportation system Be On The Safe Side (B.O.S.S.) provided 286 bar pickups and drop offs one recent week.

[Image] How Often Does Boss Take Students to Bars?

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s student transportation system Be On The Safe Side (B.O.S.S.) provided 286 pickups and drop offs from local bars in the week of March 30, 2009 to April 5, 2009, a Media Milwaukee investigation found. This total makes picking or dropping off students to bars almost 10 percent of that week’s total van stops.

The student transportation system is highly used by students each night evident by the 3,015 stops it made in the given week. On a busier night, students may even wait up to an hour to be picked up by the student driven vans and taken to their desired destination. Students may be picked up and dropped off within a certain boundary around campus for free from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“The main goal is to make sure students can get somewhere safely without being harmed by someone else or harming the community,” said Anthony Gomez, a graduate student who is the student manager of B.O.S.S.

Stops include:                                                           

-          grocery stores                       example: Pick N Save

-          housing around campus         example: 2637 Fredrick St.

-          campus buildings                   example : Lubar Hall

-          tanning salons                        example: Sunseekers

-          restaurants                            example: McDonald’s

-          local stores                           example: Walgreens

-          bars                                      example: Judges

B.O.S.S. is funded through student segregated fees as appropriated by the Student Association. This year’s estimated budget is $504,743.95 and is broken down by semester. The salary from student tuition allows the service to pay for any equipment or repairs needed, student employee salaries and also for renting the space in the union for the headquarters.

Student tuition dollars may be helping provide safe transportation, but they are also giving students free rides to what some believe are unnecessary destinations such as tanning, house parties or local bars. The campus is still mourning two recent alcohol related deaths of the UWM students Allie Raddatz and Luke Murphy. Binge drinking awareness among students is a concern for administrators at UWM.

The B.O.S.S. system’s main objective being safety for students, it seems that the service is more popular than ever. Other schools in Wisconsin such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison have similar transportation systems available to students.

Funding Given By Students

B.O.S.S. openly brings students to any local destination, regardless if it has to do with campus activities or school work. For the many students who do not live on campus, the service is often not used or actually unknown to the student.

“I’ve never heard about it” said Kimberly Wietor, a UWM student who lives off campus with her two children.

Most students find paying for tuition hard and extra fees are never welcome.

“I can’t say I am really for paying for students to get rides to go bar hopping, tanning or shopping,” said Weitor. “At the same time I understand because I was 18 once.”

A Friday Night For B.O.S.S.

B.O.S.S. was in full use on Friday, May 15, 2009 when a student journalist rode the transportation service after 10:30 p.m. to witness the use by students. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday the service is busy with nine or ten vans taking groups of students to their desired locations.

“It’s nice to do a job that is relaxing where you get to know your community and fellow students. That is a great aspect of this job,” said Nick Earl, who supervises on the weekends and has been driving the B.O.S.S. vans for three years.

Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are also popular nights for B.O.S.S. to bring students who have been drinking out with their friends. One of the stops that night picked up five students from the dorms and brought them to a house party near campus. The students had been drinking and helped one female student into the dorm building after she was too intoxicated to come with them into the van. The student was crying on the side of the building and needed the help of dorm authorities to return to her room. B.O.S.S. brought the remaining students to a party.

Although not all of the van’s stops were this dramatic. Several of the stops had friendly students just wanting a ride home. According to Earle it is late at night when the stops get more interesting, especially on Thursdays.

“I’ve had a lot of  tough nights because I do work Thursdays and I am the supervisor on Thursdays. Those are always the worst nights if people throw up in a van or there is some damage done to a van,” said Earle, “People throw up in vans. It’s not as common as everyone thinks though. You don’t expect it to happen and when it does happen, it’s like awe man.”

B.O.S.S. does have the concern for student safety at heart and wants to students to make safe choices.

“What we are worried about the most is if the person is ok. We are going to make sure you get home safe and someone will be with you,” said Earle.

Madison’s SAFE Ride Cab Services

Other universities in Wisconsin provide similar services for students. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a transportation service they like to call SAFE Ride Cab and Bus services. It is similar by providing safe transportation on and around campus to students available until 2 a.m..

The service does not drop off students to parties or bars in the area. According to policy, only two individuals can be picked up at time and only a certain amount of rides can be given per student a month.

“This service is not a tool of convenience. The students are only allowed four rides per month and this is because the rides are purely to provide a safe ride home, not out of convenience,” said Troy Ruland, the second shift SAFE supervisor at the school.

The school’s website advocates that the service should not be used as a free cab ride and groups of three or more are encouraged to pool money together to pay for a cab. It seems to be very different from the B.O.S.S. system that brought six students to a local bar on a Thursday in April.

However, Madison’s SAFE ride will pick students up if they have been drinking or if a student is at a house party on campus and does not feel safe.

“The primary goal is to get the students safely home. We will pick them up at a bar and take them home. It’s more that we are not going to take them out. Again this service is for safety not for convenience,” said Ruland.

The Upside

Free rides to students who are drinking does have an upside. Students will be less likely to drink and drive. If a student finds himself or herself in a situation where they have been drinking or their driver has been drinking, they have a safe alternative ride. Even being intoxicated and walking around the city can be a hazard to the student. B.O.S.S. provides the ride that gives students a safer strategy in these types of situations.

The Norris Health Center on campus has several health educators who inform students of the consequences of drinking.

“We don’t necessarily go out there and just tell students not to drink because we know that is not always a message they will take to heart,” said Sarah Belstock, a health educator at Norris Health Center, “We believe in harm reduction strategies that reduce the potential for negative consequences. B.O.S.S. is one of those services that does this.”

College students are going to drink, but will a service that provides free transportation to bars intensify binge drinking?

Editor's note: Photo is a stock photo.

“I can’t say for certain either way whether B.O.S.S. is having an impact on student drinking behavior, but I would be doubtful,” said Belstock.







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