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UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Linda Bunnell Needs To Come Clean About Drinking And Driving

April 19, 2009

If I take the tough calls against the snowmobilers, and bar patrons in Wisconsin for drunk driving it only makes sense that I also do the same for someone at the top of administration at the University of Wisconsin.  It is disheartening that someone like UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Linda Bunnell be at the center of such questions, but this is where we are today.  Not only is the charge of drinking and driving involved, but also the fact she hit a vehicle and drove away from the scene.  For someone that is a leader of a college, and a role model for young adults, makes this all the more difficult.

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Chancellor Linda Bunnell admitted Wednesday to having a couple of drinks at a dinner party the night she was involved in a car accident that occurred in February.

The chancellor hit a parked vehicle and left the scene without reporting the accident. The UW System, however, said the chancellor turned in all paper work and alcohol had not been an issue.


Chancellor Linda Bunnell acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press she bought a cocktail and two glasses of wine at the Madison Club before the Feb. 17 accident in downtown Madison. But she said she only had time to drink one of the three and was not tipsy at the time of the crash with her state vehicle.  Who buy three drinks before drinking one…or two…?

Records released this week also raise questions about Bunnell’s use of private money for entertainment expenses, including $576 to replace a ruined tablecloth set and $568 for a mostly unused country club membership.

Police say Bunnell, 66, hit an unoccupied parked vehicle with her state-owned Toyota Camry and left the scene without telling anyone. She said she didn’t stop because she was in a hurry to get to Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget speech and thought the damage was minor, not because she had been drinking.

There is no breathalyzer test to disprove the allegations of  drunk driving in this case.  But the rest of the story which is not in dispute seems to point to a person who made poor decisions about drinking and driving.  The lack of personal responsibility she exhibited seems to be demonstrated by the facts.

I am normally the first person in line to defend the UW from those who attack it for a variety of reasons.  But as I listen to this story develop I am troubled by the poor example set by a UW Chancellor when it came to drinking and driving.  Perhaps the other option for the evening in question would have been to enjoyed an iced-tea.  You know, the old-fashioned kind.

I know that in Wisconsin this type of activity is seen as a common everyday happening.  That is not right given the potential for great harm or worse that a drunk driver can create.  I hope that the stigma is not allowed to bounce off Chancellor Linda Bunnell, and instead this can be a teaching moment.  Her role in the educational arena should be now used, once she stops the denials, and embraces her mistake.  Let her come forth and talk candidly about what happened, and why it is wrong.  And why others should not drink and drive.  A little humility and honesty may do more than save her job.

It may save someone’s life.

  1. April 19, 2009 4:30 PM

    She’s just following the excellent example set by former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. Before she got busted after driving into the ditch in Dodge County, the AG had mysterious dents in her state-owned vehicle repaired that she claimed were due to the vehicle being hit while parked.

    It’s not that unusual to buy two or three drinks at a time, if the bar is crowded and there is a long wait to get served. So that part of Bunnell’s story is theoretically possible. I suspect that, rather than abandoning the purchased drinks that she didn’t have time to consume, she actually slammed them before leaving and figured she would have time to get to her destination before the buzz hit.

    While drunk driving cannot be proven at this point, she should face serious penalties for the hit-and-run. Our legislature needs to make the punishment for a hit-and-run incident at least as serious as the potential drunk driving penalty. Right now, drunks have a strong incentive to leave the scene.

  2. April 19, 2009 4:09 PM

    Don’t bet on it, this is America, nobody admits blame unless overwhelming evidence is shown, meanwhile excuses. Also, she makes, I’m sure pretty awesome bling, free cars, hang with the big shots, she’s not giving that up.

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