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Saint Louis University Students Question SLU Ride And SLU Campus Safety

2 Dec

Saint Louis has been named the most dangerous city in America by CQ Press. The study’s 2010 data is based on population and crime statistics compiled by the FBI. Saint Louis University, nestled in the heart of Saint Louis, is not exempt from the city’s dangers. SLU Ride is one service offered to students to keep them safe.

SLU takes many precautions in order to keep its students safe and prides itself on being one of the safest urban campuses in the nation. SLU Ride was created to ensure that students would not have to walk at night unprotected. It provides rides to students to and from campus and several nearby locations, including the Grand Boulevard Metro Link. Even with this service in place, recent muggings of students have occurred on and near campus. This leaves some students wondering if the university should be doing more do protect them.

Michelle Missak, a sophomore, is one of these students. She works at Kota Wood Fire Grill, a restaurant near campus. Although it is only a few blocks from away, she is not able to get SLU Ride to pick her up. She was told service was not available to her. Missak walks back to her dorm from work, many times alone after dark.

“Even though it is only a couple of blocks away, I still get a little bit nervous walking alone because, you know, things happen,” Missak said. “I wish SLU Ride could pick me up and drop me off just because I would feel a lot more comfortable.”

SLU Ride cannot offer service to many places off campus, but defends its service. Chelsea Byler, a SLU Ride official, said the program was created to “alleviate on-campus safety issues.” She stressed that students need to realize they make a choice to travel off campus, whether it is for a job or any other reason. When students leave campus, the university cannot be responsible for them. If students decide to walk unescorted, students should practice certain habits to keep themselves safe.

“First and foremost, travel with companions. Be alert to your surroundings,” said Roland J. Corvington, director of the Department of Public Safety. “I often see many students looking down at their cell phones or texting while they’re walking or listening to their iPod, which is all fine, but the problem is when you do that and are oblivious to what’s going on around you.”

SLU also offers additional services to keep its students safe. The university has invested more than $40 million in improvements to enhance campus security. A new communication system has been put into place to keep students, faculty and staff aware of emergencies and safety alerts. More than 100 public safety officers patrol the campus 24/7. Emergency call boxes are also located around campus, including in the parking garages.

With all of these services in place, crime on Saint Louis University’s campus continues. Recent reports of robberies of on-campus apartments and students being mugged leave many students questioning the safety of their campus and feel that more can be done.

While SLU Ride has no current plans to extend its routes, students may still want to take advantage of SLU Ride when it is available. Students should call 977-RIDE for a safe way to get around campus after dark. During the school year, SLU Ride provides service from 6 pm to midnight Sunday through Wednesday. Service extends to 3 in the morning Thursday through Saturday. A golf cart, van or walking escort will be provided based on destination and availability. Students should contact DPS at 977-3000 if an escort is needed at night after SLU Ride has closed.

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Are you afraid of The Darkness? St. Louis’s top haunted house

2 Nov

The Darkness, located in downtown Saint Louis, lies quiet after a busy night of frightening thrill seekers from around the country.

Creepy music, flashing lights, a dark mirrored maze and a 3D corridor filled with evil clowns are just a few of the scare tactics employed by The Darkness in hopes of making people’s skin crawl this Halloween season.

From the outside looking in, The Darkness looks like any other brick building in Soulard, but the inside hosts a wealth of horrors. Over 20 national publications, including USA Today and Forbes, have named it one of America’s top haunted houses.

The Darkness is open to thrill seekers from Sept. 10 through Nov. 6. It is a part of St. Louis’s Scarefest along with CreepyWorld, which includes seven different haunted houses in one location. The Lemp Mansion, also part of Scarefest, is located in nearby Fenton and is rumored to be truly haunted by evil spirits. The Darkness is set apart by its detail, set design and animations.

A bearded man in bloody garb who calls himself Scary Gary greets visitors outside the haunt event night with his chilling smile. He has worked at The Darkness for the past 17 years.

“I’m just nuts, I guess,” Scary Gary said, explaining his love for his job.

Scary Gary, longtime Darkness actor, greets and scares visitors at the entrance of the haunted house.

Scary Gary works with about 120 other actors at The Darkness. Lauren Loboski, a Saint Louis University graduate, manages the actors. She was impressed when she first visited the haunted house as a student and started working there as an actor and is now a manager. Loboski looks for actors who are energetic and creative. She said a good actor uses the scenery in innovative ways for the best and scariest effect.

The actors at The Darkness have plenty of spooky scenery to work with. Its realistic sets include a swamp, butcher shop, ancient tomb, and many more. HauntWorld.com, a prevalent haunted house directory, names it the best, most detailed haunted house in America. For this reason, The Darkness attracts almost 6,000 guests each weekend of the season. The haunt attracts many local visitors, but people come from around the country for what is said to be the best scare around. Many celebrity guests have also attended.

“The Rams players go down the quickest,” said Scary Gary, obviously tickled by how tough football players are the easiest to scare.

Many more celebrities, such as Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Cassandra Peterson and Lisa Loring have also been in attendance. They may be better known as Freddie Kruger, Elvira, the star of The Exorcist, and Wednesday Addams. Music stars Young Money and Miley Cyrus both attended last year while in St. Louis for concerts.

Scary Gary straps unsuspecting visitor Kaitlin Deutsch to a mechanical replica of an electric chair in the museum at the exit of The Darkness.

Though the cast and crew are proud of their long list of celebrity guests, it is not what keeps them coming back year after year. The actors say the job is a lot of fun and a great place to meet new people. For many, the appeal of the job is the thrill of frightening the guests.

“It’s the rush, the rush of scaring people,” said Jeremy Nelson, an actor who has been spooking visitors at The Darkness for 13 years.

Over the years, Nelson has been able to develop his signature move, a sudden, low growl at the nape of an unsuspecting visitor’s neck. He said that at the very least it will send chills down any spine, but also sends many people running in fear.

The Darkness has renovations annually, which totaled more than $1 million this year, to keep the element of surprise, add new technology, and keep its standing among the top haunts in the country.

The Darkness is located at 1525 South 8th Street. Cost of admission is $20. For more information and a downloadable coupon, visit www.thedarkness.com.

Study abroad in Turkey: SLU’s new program holds new opportunities

6 Oct

Katie Ullman gazed up at the breathtaking ceiling 20 stories above her in amazement. The tiled mosaics, intricately carved columns and sheer beauty of the architecture made the inside of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey much more like a work of art than just a room. Ullman thought of the empires, battles, sultans and kings that made the mosque’s history just as enchanting as the building itself. She never imagined that she could study in such a beautiful place.

Ullman had been interested in studying abroad, but had not been able to fit it into her busy schedule. Last year, a three-week program was added that made her dream a possibility. Students can earn credit for school while experiencing a culture different from their own without having to spend an entire semester away from home.

During the program this summer, Ullman and 12 other students earned credit for History 111 and History 112. The classes often took place in museums, mosques, and castles. Dr. Hayrettin Yucesoy, a history professor at SLU, traveled with the group. He had been pressing SLU to sponsor a course there for several years. The program was finally created last year and intended to be a one-time offer. Because of its success, SLU is offering it again this year and is discussing making the Turkey summer session a permanent part of the university’s study abroad program. Ullman glows when speaking of the experience and encourages every student to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It’s an awesome way to travel and get credit for classes at the same time. It’s hard for me to express how much I loved the program because it is so indescribable,” she said.

One of Ullman’s favorite aspects of the session was that it allowed her to immerse herself in another culture, which is helped her grow as an individual by widening her perspective of the world. Another SLU student, Michelle Missak, agrees that students studying abroad learn from the new environment.

Missak is a nursing student and unable to study abroad for a whole semester because of her intense course load. She loved the idea of a three-week session.

“It is wonderful to offer a shorter program because many students may feel apprehensive about being out of the country for an entire semester,” she said.

She was excited upon learning about the new program, which is more than just an alternative to longer study abroad sessions.

Ullman used these words to sum up her experience: “I would do it all over again next summer if I could because every time a person travels, they only learn more.”

For more information about this, as well as other study abroad programs, visit http://www.slu.edu/x26920.xml.