Raise wages at Towson As students of Towson University...

March 16, 2002

Raise wages at Towson

As students of Towson University, we are outraged at the irresponsibility of our administration in indulging President Mark Perkins with a questionable $1.4 million investment in his residence at the same time workers at Towson struggle to survive on pitiful salaries ("Towson U. finds costly path to proper mansion," March 7).

Housekeepers employed at Towson are among the lowest-paid workers in the state university system, earning poverty-level wages averaging $6.10 an hour.

Recently more than 1,100 students signed a petition supporting an increase in these workers' wages to adequately cover living expenses. But our administration has all but ignored such requests, at the same time choosing to throw away over $50,000 on a lavish and unprecedented inaugural celebration for Mr. Perkins.

Our administration has emphasized its desire for Towson to mature as an institution. But it insists on spending our money on superficial indulgences while members of our community cannot afford basic living expenses.

We must ask whether this behavior demonstrates maturity or simply a selfish concern for appearances.

Neale Stokes Tanza Coursey Jordan Feder Towson

The writers are members of the Student Worker Alliance of Towson.

Controlling drunken drivers

Without question, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee's passage of a bill to ban open containers of alcohol in the passenger areas of motor vehicles on state roadways is a landmark ("Ban on drinking in cars is OK'd," March 8).

However, while The Sun suggested that the possibility of losing more than $7 million in much-needed federal highway monies if Maryland doesn't pass an open container bill this year motivated its passage, the real reason Maryland lawmakers should be getting tough on drunken drivers is that, simply, drunken driving continues to be a major problem in the state.

Between 1999 and 2000, drunken driving deaths in the Old Line State increased 26 percent. In 2000, 24,869 Maryland drivers were arrested for driving under the influence or while intoxicated.

To put this sobering figure into perspective, it means that in 2000 alone, more Maryland drivers were arrested for drunken driving than the total populations of Boonsboro, Crisfield, Denton, Glen Echo, Mount Airy, Ocean City, Queenstown, St. Michaels and Upper Marlboro combined.

Or that every 21 minutes someone is arrested for drunken driving in Maryland. These numbers are unacceptable.

And the importance of this year's bills becomes abundantly clear when you realize that, today:

It is perfectly legal to drive a car on the Interstate Highway System in Maryland with an open can of beer in your hand.

It is possible that drivers with multiple drunken driving arrests may get the same or less penalty than those convicted of drunken driving for the first time.

When it comes to imposing penalties, current Maryland law doesn't distinguish between a driver with a 0.08 blood alcohol level concentration and a "super drunk" driver with a level more than four times the legal limit.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Del. Sharon M. Grosfeld have introduced bills to increase penalties for repeat drunken drivers.

Other bills include measures to rein-in probation-before-judgment findings in DUI cases, make the crime of hit-and-run a felony, mandate an alcohol assessment for DUI offenders and allow law enforcement to issue a criminal citation instead of a criminal summons for unlawful sales of alcohol to minors in Maryland.

State lawmakers' passage of such public health and safety legislation would do much to help Maryland close its doors to drunken drivers.

Not passing such life-saving legislation would be yet another missed opportunity to prevent the most frequent violent crime in this country, drunken driving.

Kurt Gregory Erickson, McLean, Va.

The writer is executive director of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

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