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After tragedy last winter, BSU looks at ways to address drinking and safety

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Students and campus leaders hope to improve student safety while addressing alcohol consumption at Bemidji State University following the death of a student last year.

The school is spreading this message through a video – "Who's got your back?: No buddy left behind" – which was played for incoming freshmen at orientation and throughout various classes during the first few weeks of the school year, the Bemidji Pioneer reported.

The hope is that if students lookout for one another it will prevent future tragedies.

This campaign comes from Bemidji State's task force on student safety, which was formed by President Richard Hanson in response to the death of Sandra Lommen, who fell into an icy creek on the way home from a party and later died of hypothermia.

One month later, there was another serious alcohol-related incident in January where a student was found outside in the snow.

"As unfortunate as that tragedy was, our campus came together as it never has before on alcohol use and student safety," Jay Passa, BSU health education coordinator and a member of a task force, told the Bemidji Pioneer. "I want to be careful with my words here, but some good has come out of it."

The new video features Bemidji State students encouraging their classmates to take campus safety, especially alcohol abuse, seriously. It also urges students to use the buddy system and look out for one another to make sure everyone gets home safely.

The Student Senate has also been handing out "S.O.S. Save our students" bracelets to spread this message.

Brittany Hull, Student Senate president, told the Bemidji Pioneer she's already noticed more togetherness when people go out.

The task force has also come up with other ideas to improve campus safety and combat heavy drinking that could be put in place in the coming years, including a low-cost shuttle service, funding for non-alcohol campus activities, and better training and communication for the BSU community, the Bemidji Pioneer reported.

Roughly 5,000 undergraduates and more than 300 graduate students attend Bemidji State University, the school's website notes.

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