Luther Facilities and Security should prioritize student safety over college vehicles

Student organizations and athletic departments check out Luther vehicles and expect them to be fully prepared to go and operational. However, Luther College Facilities and Security recently risked the safety of students by stranding them without proper resources and giving life-threatening advice. 

These events took place during a trip with one of Luther’s student organizations. We checked out two cars and got to our destination safely. However, on our last night of the trip, a tire popped on one of our vehicles.

 This wasn’t too big of a deal, but Luther College Facilities and Security did not give any useful advice on how to handle the situation. Our advisor told one of our captains to call AAA. They had to tow the car because our vehicle didn’t have a spare tire like it should have. Our captain had to pay nearly $200 out of his own pocket to get a new tire. This was the least of our troubles, though, for the trip revealed more negligence on behalf of facilities.

The next day, two drivers went to pick up the vehicle. The tire specialist told us that the tire popped because the lugnuts were too tight and recommended that Luther should have maintenance on the others before driving out. From that moment on, we all thought another tire could pop at any minute. 

With the flat tire situation settled, we tried to head back to Luther. Then, the hybrid car battery died. This could have led to another teammate spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket. When our captains called for help, facilities instructed us to unplug the battery and plug it back in. The five of us in that car had no experience with mechanics, and strangers, parents, and our common sense told us to avoid unplugging the car battery at all costs. 

We continued calling Security, who eventually told us to stop contacting them. Our parents were misinformed by Luther Security and Facilities about our whereabouts and the severity of the situation, as they neglected to mention the dead car battery and inability to travel. Instead, they said that we were safely on the way back to Luther. This was shocking, as Facilities and Security were well aware that we were still stuck. A tow truck eventually jumped our car, but we couldn’t turn it off afterwards. The problem? The roads were in blizzard conditions. 

Our parents and friends advised us not to drive back because it was unsafe. When we told Director of Facilities Services Jay Uthoff this, he claimed he didn’t know about the weather but said, “If you don’t feel safe, we can’t stop that. Just make sure to get back safe.” 

Facilities and Security didn’t say they would help us get back to campus so our captain had to beg them for a ride, which they reluctantly agreed to. 

We provided our own housing that night and had to use the car to get there. On the way back to campus, Security and Facilities repeatedly called our driver. At that point, we had all reached our limit. We pulled over to calm down and answer their calls, but the car died again. The full stress of the situation hit, and one of our captains had a panic attack on the side of the road in shorts and a hoodie. We called a non-emergency police line and an officer came to help calm our captain. After explaining the situation to the officer, he was just as confused as we were. After sitting outside for two hours, we eventually made it to a friend’s house. 

Facilities didn’t give us an estimate on when they would pick us up until midnight. Though they told us they would pick us up by 9:00 a.m. we weren’t picked up until 11:30 a.m. This meant we would miss our classes, which we pay lots of money for. The entire way back, the driver continuously criticised us for what had happened and blamed the entire situation on us. 

After arriving back at Luther, one of us met with Uthoff and Facilities Services Administrative Assistant Pam Ihns to discuss the situation. 

The summary of the conversation was that it was our fault. According to them, we violated their policies and didn’t use proper safety procedures which require drivers to call Security first. However, we called Security immediately after we started having problems. Uthoff and Ihns also claimed that our driver’s panic attack was caused by “four young ladies bending his ear.” 

We are offended by this statement, as it appears to belittle panic disorders and demonstrates bias towards women. 

Facilities continually blamed us and still have not reimbursed us. Their actions endanger students, and the only thing they think they can fix is “enforcing their policies better.” 

Their policies don’t work and must be changed. Facilities needs to make sure the vehicles are properly maintained and that they have equipment, such as jumper cables and a spare tire. 

Any driver using their vehicles should be aware of the danger they could face. Finally, Security and Facilities both were extremely disrespectful towards the students and parents involved, and need to have a better handle on how to respond to these emergency situations. This situation could have been avoided by Facilities, but they decided to put their vehicles before student safety.

Sincerely,

Wil Davis (‘23)

Delaney Buisker (‘23)

Katie Bellefeuille (‘23)

Signe Fadness (‘23)

Izzy Pippert (‘23)

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