No one refers to George Mason University as a party school. We’re no James Madison or Radford; that’s not how we roll. First of all, we’re a commuter school by a wide majority, so no one hangs around long enough for a good party. Second, Mason police are known to crack down hard on foul play such as underage drinking, and nobody wants to deal with that kind of trouble. It seems like the party scene here at Mason is restricted to either smallish but sometimes rowdy get-togethers in upperclassmen housing or the weekly Thursday-night flight into Old Town Fairfax for cheap booze and dancing to be found primarily at Hard Times, Buffalo Wing University and The Auld Shebeen.

I’ve had my share of outings into Old Town. It’s a good time, and I meet a lot of new people, most of whom are other Mason students. However, there is one thing I find disturbing each time I go to Fairfax on a Thursday night: I see a lot of tipsy people in possession of car keys. While it would be nice to believe that students at this university would be so responsible as to not drive drunk, it is undeniable that it happens.

Everyone goes into Old Town with a game plan. Usually, either someone draws the short straw and has to be the designated driver, or you shell out around $20 for a cab to drive you there and back. I don’t know anyone on campus who walks. It’s not very far, but it’s just far enough to be implausible, especially if you expect to be intoxicated on the way back. Stumbling your way through the minefield of police peppered throughout Old Town on Thursday nights is no one’s idea of a good time.

The problem lies in the misconception that a designated driver can stop drinking 30 minutes before the bar closes and sober up or in the reluctance of students for whom 20 bucks is too much money to spend on what amounts to a total of about 10 minutes of transportation. Twenty dollars is a lot of money to a college student. The end result of a Thursday evening in Old Town appears to be multiple drunk drivers navigating within the same small area. An environment is created in which it is far too easy for people to be hurt or thrown in jail. Unfortunately, I don’t think this problem can be totally eliminated. There will always be people who drive drunk, but there is something Mason could do to help keep students safe.

Many schools across the country provide transportation for students when times are ripe for partying. Many believe this is a smart way of protecting students, who will inevitably drink, from the dangers of drunk driving, but it is also controversial. Some argue that providing transportation for drunk students is a school’s tacit endorsement of partying. This view is nonsense. Universities can pretend young people don’t drink, but that’s like claiming young people don’t have sex. This willful oblivion is stupid and leads to harmful consequences. More can be gained from mitigating the risks that come with intoxication than from trying to pretend that students don’t drink.

I would like to see the transportation department here at Mason provide a shuttle on Thursday nights between the Fairfax campus and Old Town. I spoke with Josh Cantor, the director of parking and transportation, about the feasibility of this idea. At first glance, extending the schedule of Gunston’s Go-Bus on Thursday nights seems pretty easy. The recent addition of the Fairfax Square route brings the George and Mason shuttles to Old Town on Thursday nights, arriving at 10:50 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. respectively. The shuttles then return to the Fairfax campus to end their routes for the day. Why not tack on another two-and-a-half hours to the Mason Go-Bus on Thursday nights?

Cantor, who expressed great concern for the transportation needs of students throughout the interview, explained that the obstacles for this idea are a lack of priority, funds and interest. Currently, the idea of Thursday night transportation to Fairfax would fall into the fourth or fifth slot on the transportation list of priorities. The top three prerogatives of the parking and transportation department are purchasing more buses, adding weekend Mason-to-Metro service for students and Mason Inn guests and adding a shuttle route to Burke.

According to Cantor, extending Go-Bus operating hours on Thursday nights would cost between $200 and $300 per week; this is not a large sum of money. Cantor stated that if the department does not have enough money to put into a large priority project, it could possibly divert funds into a smaller project, such as the Thursday night route to Fairfax. Because the shuttles are not equipped with fare-collection devices, charging students a dollar or two to ride is not an option.

Regarding the level of interest in such a service, Cantor stated that he has never been approached in an organized way about a Thursday night shuttle although he has received several individual endorsements. While many people often speak negatively about the parking and transportation department at Mason (I, too, am guilty of begrudging them each year when I pay for a parking pass), it is apparent that Cantor cares about Mason students’ transportation needs and desires and is receptive to new ideas.

Cantor stated that students can show their support for a Thursday night shuttle to Old Town when the parking and transportation department puts out its bi-annual survey in the fall semester to gauge students’ wants, needs and attitudes. Cantor stated that a question regarding this idea could be included on the survey, which the department uses to determine priority projects and allotting funds. A significant show of support on this survey could result in the implementation of a Thursday night route.

Regarding the argument that adding a route to Old Town on Thursday nights would constitute an endorsement by the university of drinking, I point out one important fact: Many proponents of this point of view insist that these “drunk buses” encourage underage drinking. This won’t be an issue here. The proposed route would only shuttle students to Old Town, where bars admit only individuals who are 21 years of age or older. Thus, Mason would be shuttling adult students engaging in legal behavior. This is purely an issue of providing a safer environment for students who choose to participate in legal, normal college behavior. Shouldn’t that be something everyone can get behind?

In the end, Mason students are responsible for their actions. Every student knows driving drunk is never a good idea. However, a responsible student and a drinking student are not mutually exclusive. Drinking is often a part of college life, and its place on a college campus cannot be ignored. The difference between a responsible and an irresponsible  student is not whether they choose to drink but whether they choose to get drive. Providing more alternatives to drunk driving will make it all easier for students to act responsibly. Adding a late-night route to Gunston’s Go-Bus on Thursdays would provide students with a convenient alternative that could drastically reduce the number of drunk drivers and potentially save lives.