Nearly two years have gone by since UR Dean of Students Matthew Burns called for a moratorium on off-campus bar buses. In that time, however, there has only been a partial reinstatement of these services. The administration bringing back the buses only for designated senior nights and formal events. This has caused some students to point an accusatory finger at the administration. “The parents are trying to quash our fun,” they clamor. Such sentiments, however, are ultimately naive.

Casting the administration as the scapegoat in this scenario requires a type of selective amnesia on part of the students. After all it was student behavior that caused the moratorium in the first place.  In the years that the university had provided bar bus services, there had been a number of incidents, including fights, broken windows, a kicked in door, a knife, and people vomiting all over the buses. From the administration’s point of view the bar bus service has always presented an issue of liability.

“Ours is a harm induction strategy,” Burns said. “It’s about risk management and eventually the risk with the buses just became unmanageable.”

As a result of these incidents Burns called the moratorium, which he urges was not so much a punitive action as it was a way to take a step back an assess the problems with the bar buses.

“My plan was never to take away bar buses completely” he said. “It was just to take time to come up with solutions.”

It is important to remember that this is not the first time UR and Burns have been down this road. There was a moratorium on bar buses back in 2008 and since then the University has seen some of the same problems emerge.

“After the first moratorium, there was about one semester of good behavior” Burns said. “After that we began seeing

the same issues emerge.”

As a result, UR is cautious about bringing the service back.

The question for the administration and the Students’ Association (SA) representatives engaged in dialogue with the administration is how to bring bar buses back in a safe manner. As Dean Burns has acknowledged, there is something inherently unsafe about the prospect of loading buses full of drunk people and carting them to and from the bars. In spite of this risk, however, he remains optimistic that there is a working solution.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but UR has some of the smartest students in the country, and I’m confident somebody can come up with something that works,” he said.

To some, it may seem like little has been done to bring back these buses. However, SA Senator and junior Vanessa Sanchez has been working to spearhead attempts to open dialogue with UR and students in an attempt to come up with workable solutions for the bar buses.

So far, SA has generated a number of ideas, such as requiring those hosting bar events to take the SWARM conflict de-escalation class at University Health Services prior to hosting an event, in the hope that they would be better suited to deal with incidents that happen on a night out.

Some have suggested expanding the Orange Line, so it would loop five minutes after the last bar bus. This would alleviate issues caused by those who cram onto the bus towards the end of the night.

Any future bar buses will likely be more strict regarding attendance and accountability, with sign-up sheets, security oversight, and potential black listing for belligerent students.

Burns is excited by these ideas and believes that they are steps in the right direction, but still sees room for further discussion.

Sanchez hopes a focus group may serve as fundamental groundwork for future change.

“I really encourage people to share their ideas,” Sanchez said. “The purpose of the focus group is to foster creative thinking more than anything else.”

McCoy is a member of the class of 2014.

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