An Open Letter to Rob O’Neill, MSU Administration and Montana Residents

From 2003-2012, 932 people lost their lives in car accidents involving drunk drivers in the state of Montana. The majority of these deaths occurred for individuals between the ages of 21 and 34 years old.

Recently, MSU cancelled a speech by former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill after he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor DUI. O’Neill has since pleaded not guilty to the charge, and released a statement stating that he took a prescription sleep-aid and had not been drinking.

More than anything, this is a letter regarding making the best of an unfortunate situation.

To the MSU Administration: bravo. Drinking and driving is a serious issue in the state of Montana, where drunk driving statistics have been recorded at up to three times the national average. MSU students took a clear stand against drunk driving in October 2015, when then-ASMSU-President Gwynn Simenuik resigned after receiving heavy backlash for her DUI arrest.

In cancelling O’Neill’s event, MSU is not presuming guilt. They are, however, sending an unmistakable message. Driving under the influence — even the possibility that an individual was driving under the influence — is not tolerated by this university.

To Mr. Rob O’Neill:  MSU’s decision to cancel your event came from a place of utmost respect. In an effort to maintain integrity and consistency, the university has continued to hold a firm stance on driving while impaired. You are welcome on our campus, and in our community. We appreciate the immense amount of sacrifice you have made for our great state and nation. Most crucially: we do not presume your guilt.

To Montana residents: This message is an important one, particularly in a state with such staggering statistics regarding drunk driving. Because laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol are lax at best, and the statistics regarding deaths due to drunk drivers aren’t getting any better, this is an issue that must be addressed culturally. Legislation can’t change a culture that says “It’s only two blocks” or “I’ve only had a few beers.”
The cancellation of these events is a step in the right direction, but the responsibility also falls to citizens.