Pseudo arrests sweep campus for philanthropy

by Fabiana Torreao

A rash of “arrests” might sweep campus today as students and instructors in class are whisked away by members of the Minneapolis Police Department to a tent-jail in front of Willey Hall.
Once in custody, jailees will have to raise $50 in pledges to be bailed out of the pokey.
Organized by Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Jail’N Bail is intended to raise money for the Special Olympics Minnesota. The fraternity raised $9,000 in cash and in-kind donations last year.
Dee Foster, special events and promotion manager for the Special Olympics Minnesota, said she is impressed every year with the willingness of the fraternity’s members.
“College students have a lot going on,” Foster said. “Everything that they do in college makes a big impact in their future.”
More than 500 arrest warrants have been distributed around campus and printed in The Minnesota Daily. Anyone can send their friends — both students and faculty members — to jail by filling out a warrant.
Volunteer officers arrest the wanted felons and take them to a tent in front of Willey Hall, where they are subjected to a pizza and pop “interrogation.” Instead of only getting one phone call, jailees are lent a cellular phone to raise at least $50 from friends to bail them out of jail.
Tim Madsen, Sigma Alpha Epsilon event organizer, said sometimes jailees are caught unexpectedly, which adds to the fun of the event.
“Usually people are pretty good sports about it,” Madsen said.
The jailees, however, can refuse the arrest, such as students or instructors who do not want to leave the classroom.
Sgt. Richard Seldon started the program in 1995 with Tony Biel, Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s president at the time. The event was an attempt to improve the relationship between law enforcers and fraternity organizations.
Jail’N Bail raised $3,500 in its first year. The program grew as the largest philanthropy event at the University organized by a student group, when by its second year it raised $8,500.
However, some participants do not pay their pledged donations. Last year, participants pledged more than $13,000, but only an estimated $9,000 was actually paid, made up of about $6,000 in cash donations and $3,000 in-kind donations.
After paying for Jail’N Bail expenses, the remaining $4,000 was donated to the Minnesota Law Enforcement Torch Run benefiting the Special Olympics.
This year, organizers expect more than 150 jailees and hope to raise $15,000, Madsen said.
He said he would like to see more faculty members participating in the event. The majority of the jailees are students, especially fraternity members.
Other fraternities organize other charitable events, such as Sigma Chi’s Derby Days, a week of activities that raise an average of $3,000 to $5,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation; and Beta Theta Pi’s Beta Rose, which this year will donate volunteer-time at a local Goodwill Industries store.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Jail’N Bail received support from a number of organizations, including American Glass and Mirror, Inc., the University Bookstores, Domino’s Pizza and the Coca-Cola Campus Life Initiatives.

Fabiana Torreao covers St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]