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xx Re: Jared Dion - WI
« Reply #15 on: Apr 11th, 2005, 12:54am »

continued from above



Reaching out

Alcohol awareness programs are nothing new at UW-L. Rohde said his officers speak with parents about the issue at freshmen registration in June to keep them in the loop.

UW-L has peer-education groups such as Reach & Share and LaX Link that discuss social issues such as drinking. They speak with freshman during UW-L 100 classes, plaster their Stall Street Journal posters packed with information and statistics on a range of issues in bathrooms around campus and host regular alcohol-alternative events.

"What we really try to promote is coming to grips with reality and that perceptions can be very deceiving," said Jicinsky, a Reach & Share educator.

"One of the things we talk about is the tabloid effect, how you are more likely to hear about a story on a Monday morning about some craziness that happened over the weekend involving alcohol than you are about the students who went to a movie."

The message is to be safe and careful, the peer educators say, not to preach or act like a parent. They talk about going out and returning with friends, keeping track of what you drink and alternating alcoholic beverages with water or soda.

That fits with the message students say would be accepted by their peers, rather than what some perceive as the current ideal no drinking at all.

Twenty-one year old Marci Uphill, also of Reach & Share, said many of the messages are "very new" to students. Many don't realize what actually constitutes one drink; they may think a Long Island ice tea is one drink but in reality each glass contains about five shots of alcohol.

But Jicinsky said the topic doesn't tend to be a favorite among students.

"... It's something that faculty and administrators may hold great concern with, but when you mention alcohol education or diversity, you tend to get a lot of rolling eyes from students," she said.

Rohde said he has noticed more student interest in the issue this year. An annual program on how to protect yourself usually draws about a half-dozen students; this year, 25 students attended a fall session, prompting a second one to be held before spring break.

The session typically has been geared toward women and usually is held before Oktoberfest to show students how to protect themselves as well as offer safety tips on drinking and being in a crowd.

Torstveit said the choice to not drink is more acceptable now than in the past. Students who choose not to drink aren't seen as losers anymore, she said. At UW-L, a substance-free residence hall, called White Hall, was started after students demanded it several years ago. Nicholas said it is one of the most active halls on campus.

"We are not anti-alcohol," Torstveit stressed. "We want to give students accurate info so they can make informed decisions and, hopefully, stay safe.

"College students don't think it can happen to them. There is no one more immortal than a college student."

Ongoing battle

The changes aren't always visible, administrators say, and they could take years to become apparent. More work is needed, both administrators and students say, as is more community involvement and support.

And the culture of drinking has to change, they say. Alcohol cannot be glorified, Torstveit said. Students need to learn to take responsibility for their actions, and adults need to speak to students as equals, not talk down to them.

There always will be the revolving door of students; in four or five years, no one other than faculty might know of Jared Dion.

And despite their best efforts, Torstveit said she wouldn't be surprised if students haven't noticed any differences during the past year.

"We are trying to make changes in attitudes," she said.

"It's never easy. It's never quick."

Kate Schott can be reached at (608) 791-82126 or Kate.Schott@lacrossetribune.com
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« Reply #16 on: Apr 19th, 2005, 05:45am »

Editor's note: April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Throughout the month, The Spectator is discussing some of the issues related to students' alcohol use in order to educate and examine the role it plays in our culture.

On April 15, 2004, Kim Dion received troubling news from UW-La Crosse that her son, 21-year-old Jared Dion, was found dead in the Mississippi River five days after he disappeared from Third Street, where he and his friends had been drinking.

As Kim Dion analyzed the situation, she said she questioned why La Crosse continued to have problems with alcohol and drowning deaths while UW-Milwaukee or UW-Madison did not, even with the bodies of water near the campuses.

"La Crosse is sweeping the issue under the rug," she said. "They need to address the problem."

In early March, she filed a $250,000 lawsuit in federal court against the city of La Crosse and the university for promoting binge drinking and not providing enough safety to prevent tragedies.

Kim Dion and her attorney, James Gende II, declined to elaborate on the lawsuit.

The suit contends La Crosse encourages drinking by providing a "get home safe" bus to the bar-filled downtown area, is "famous for ... $5 all-you-can-drink beer specials" and does not have safeguards like guard rails or foot patrol near the river, according to an article in the La Crosse Tribune.

Kim Dion said drink specials are constantly advertised in La Crosse through numerous venues like the university newspaper.

"Just under a story about my son, they had a drink special for Long Island Ice Tea," she said. "Give me a break."
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xx La Crosse officials work to curb binge-drinking cu
« Reply #17 on: May 3rd, 2005, 07:02am »

La Crosse officials work to curb binge-drinking culture
Tavern ads restricted, police add extra shift
By REID J. EPSTEIN


One year after a college student's drowning death sparked fears that a serial killer was roaming the La Crosse riverfront, the city and university officials have enacted changes designed to help curb what officials said really led to the tragedy: a dangerous binge-drinking culture.

The Police Department added an extra shift dedicated to curbing house parties that cater to underage drinkers and to patrolling the downtown bar district. Also, the university's student newspaper restricted what taverns could say in advertisements.

But there is a long way to go, officials say, before the drinking problems in the city are under control.

La Crosse was rocked in April 2004 when Jared Dion, a 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student from the Town of Merton in Waukesha County, was pulled from the Mississippi River after a five-day search. Rumors spread over the Internet and across town that a serial killer had to be responsible.

Dion was the seventh young man since 1997, and the 23rd since 1974, found dead in the Mississippi River in the La Crosse area. No one has died in the river under similar circumstances since Dion.

At a public hearing a week after Dion's body was recovered, Police Chief Edward Kondracki was heckled by a crowd of 1,500 people when he said Dion and the other river victims succumbed to a binge-drinking culture and not to a suspicious killer.

Just a few still believe
Former Mayor John Medinger, who said at the time that most of the city's residents - including his wife - believed a killer was stalking downtown streets, said that people who still believe in a killer represent "a very small minority."

Medinger, who did not seek re-election this spring, convened a task force in November to review the city's alcohol ordinances, safety in the riverfront park and the community's attitude toward drinking. In March, the task force handed 19 recommendations to the La Crosse Common Council. They range from training for all the city's tavern owners to eliminating the second weekend of the popular Oktoberfest event.

"What we're really trying to do in the community is to change some of the attitude" related to alcohol, Medinger said. "That takes time, and you can't do it by passing a law."

The city already has enacted some changes. Mark Johnsrud, who replaced Medinger as mayor last month, pointed to the Police Department's extra shift to limit house parties with underage drinkers near the UW-La Crosse and Viterbo University and to an increased police presence near the downtown bars and riverfront, especially on weekend nights.

"We're going to have to remain vigilant on this issue. It's not going to go away," Johnsrud said. "We live in a community with access to alcohol, and there's a lot of young people here."

Lawsuit curbs comments
Johnsrud, like other La Crosse officials, was hesitant to speak in detail about Dion's death because of two federal lawsuits pending against the city. One, filed March 1 by Dion's family, alleges the city's alcohol policies fostered a "little Las Vegas by the river."

A second lawsuit was filed by a former city building inspector who was fired when, after Dion's death, he submitted a report deeming as unsafe a small levee in Riverside Park next to the Mississippi. Johnsrud said he is confident the city will prevail in both suits.

At the UW-La Crosse, officials made a concerted effort to convey the importance of safety to students. Along with an increased emphasis on alcohol safety, presented during freshman orientation programs, the school asked its faculty members to stress responsibility to students in classrooms.

"We are stressing safety and safety tips more than ever," said Mary Torstveit, the school's assistant director for prevention services.

The UW-La Crosse student newspaper, The Lantern, caught heat on campus last April when, on a page dedicated to memorializing Dion, it printed an advertisement for a popular downtown tavern.

"That was the last straw, and it was the beginning in a lot of aspects," said Meagan Kempen, the paper's co-editor in chief, who took charge of the paper for the 2004-'05 school year. "We really have run a classy paper this year."

Drinking ads curtailed
The weekly paper stopped accepting tavern advertisements containing phrases such as "all you can drink," or which promote wet T-shirt contests. The paper's tavern advertisements, which last year made up as much as half the newspaper's ad revenue, now represent about 10% of such income, Kempen said.

But while administrators say the measures have helped to curb students' behavior, Kempen, a senior from Bruce, said she has not seen much difference since last year.

"People really haven't changed their behavior a ton," she said. "I interviewed some freshmen who were saying, 'Jared who?' "

Already this year, two more college-age men fell into the cold river waters late in the night. In mid-April, one tried to commit suicide by jumping from the Riverside Park levee and had to be rescued by police. Another man fell through a patch of ice in a backwater near a boat landing on the city's south side this spring, La Crosse police Lt. Bob Berndt said.

But unlike Dion, whose final blood-alcohol level was 0.289, more than three times the level considered legal proof of intoxication, the man who fell through the ice managed to pull himself from the icy water and walk to a nearby house to get help.

"The city of La Crosse is 12 miles long and a lot of that border has the Mississippi River on it," Johnsrud said. "That makes it very difficult to enforce and very difficult to patrol."
http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/may05/323070.asp
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xx Dion family calls off lawsuit
« Reply #18 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 07:27am »

By TOM SHEEHAN and STEVE CAHALAN | La Crosse Tribune

MADISON A federal judge in Madison on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit against the city of La Crosse that had been filed by the family of Jared Dion, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student who drowned in 2004 in the Mississippi River.

Dion's family requested the lawsuit, filed March 1, be dismissed without prejudice, according to the order signed by Judge John Shabaz in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

That means it could be filed again.

Dion, 21, of Pewaukee, Wis., disappeared early April 10, 2004, after leaving a downtown La Crosse bar. His body was found April 15 in the river off Riverside Park.

The three-page notice of voluntary dismissal filed by the family's attorney says the city encouraged a party atmosphere in "wishing to recapture its image as a riverfront town."

The city was not formally served with the complaint, according to documents filed by James Gende II, an attorney working on behalf of Dion's estate. Gende was not available for comment Wednesday.

City Attorney Pat Houlihan said he learned Wednesday the lawsuit had been dismissed from an attorney for the city's insurance company.

The lawsuit had cited Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance Co. and several city officials, in addition to La Crosse.

Houlihan said he wasn't surprised the Dion family's lawyer had the lawsuit dismissed. "I really didn't feel that the concerns (expressed in the lawsuit) merited a lawsuit," he said.


http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2005/06/30/news/00lead.txt
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