Liability drives CatsRidde review

By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 15, 2005

Dean of students, lawyers evaluate program today

The dean of students and UA attorneys will meet today to evaluate whether CatsRidde, a club working to prevent unsafe and drunken driving on weekends, can become a program.

After members of CatsRidde had a successful meeting in April with Dean of Students Melissa Vito, club leaders expected the plans to become a program of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona by the fall, said Erin Hertzog, ASUA executive vice president.

However, plans were halted after the meeting because UA attorneys, who voiced concerns about liability because the program would deal with intoxicated students, wanted additional information, Vito said.

Jim Drnek, ASUA adviser, said the process is "taking longer than we hoped because the summer came along," and many people were out of town.

Drnek said he talked during the summer to leaders of similar programs at universities comparable to the UA and will present the information he found to Vito and the attorneys today.

"We're evaluating whether it's something the institution can get involved with based on liability concerns raised by the UA attorneys," Drnek said.

Vito said the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the information and not to determine the ultimate fate of CatsRidde.

"It's way premature to say (whether the program will succeed or not)," Vito said.

Vito said it's not her responsibility to approve or reject the program, but as dean of students she wants to make sure students "make responsible decisions."

In the drafted plan for CatsRidde, two cars would operate Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. to transport mostly UA students and their guests who don't have a safe way to get home, not just drunk students, Hertzog said.

Unlike the weekday transport service SafeRide, funding for CatsRidde would come from outside donations, not from the university's or ASUA's budget.

If approved, the program will be run by trained student volunteers, Hertzog said.

Finley Distributions donated $5,000 to CatsRidde, and Rental Enterprise offered to lend the cars for free and pay for some of the gas, Hertzog said.

Drnek said he is hopeful that CatsRidde or a close alternative will become a reality on campus.

"I'm in support of students and most of the things they want to do," Drnek said. "I'm hopeful that we can figure something out."

Chris Melton, an undeclared freshman, said the program could prevent students from driving under the influence and also from fighting.

"Students stumbling around drunk will cross paths and start fighting," said Melton, who said he has been in fights and has received a DUI.

Alison Klemp, a theatre freshman, said she would support CatsRidde because she's had to walk home at night on weekends.

"I think it's a really good idea because those are the times that students need it most," Klemp said. "It would take up where SafeRide leaves off."