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Parties Pose Problems For Colleges And Communities

Robert Rizzuto
The Repulblican/Masslive.com

Though just 21 of the 55 arrested at Saturday’s Blarney Blowout are enrolled at UMass Amherst, roughly 100 students marched across campus Tuesday demanding an apology from Amherst police for what some students are calling excessive use of force. Amherst police were the lead agency in responding to the alcohol-fueled outdoor daytime party that drew more than 4,000.

Robert Rizzuto of The Republican and Masslive.com captured video of police in riot gear arresting a partier and firing pepper pellets into a crowd.

Credit Robert Rizzuto / The Repulblican/Masslive.com
The Repulblican/Masslive.com
Amherst police donned riot gear and fired pepper pellets into the crowds. Police report being hit by bottles, full cans of beer and snowballs thrown by partiers.

In a statement, Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said officers worked “diligently and professionally” while being hit by bottles, cans and snowballs thrown by partiers. Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan also weighed in, calling students’ behavior “inexcusable” and that his office intends to “vigorously prosecute” people who incited riots, destroyed property, and assaulted police officers.”

Ed Blaguszewski is the campus spokesman. He says the university alerted students and their parents of the repercussions of such behavior before the largely off-campus event that has grown via social media over the past few years. He says the university is assessing every aspect of the party, including police response, to determine future action. He notes the challenge of having just 13,000 of its 22,000 undergrads living in campus housing.

“So we did, as we assessed things, note an uptick significantly in the number of visitors within residence halls,” Blaguszewski said. “So people were coming to stay with people within our residence halls and I’m sure off campus at some of these apartment complexes beforehand.  So as we have in some cases, say before major events like the World Series or the Superbowl, we’ve restricted the number of visitors within a residence hall just so that we can keep an eye on things in a better way.”

In Central New York, the annual Cortland-Ithaca football game that dates back to 1959 has turned into a street-wide pre- and post-game party. This past November, nearly 6,000 took to the streets in Cortland, though the game, known as Cortaca, was played 21 miles away in Ithaca. According to local media reports, 80 people were arrested, including 20 SUNY Cortland students. Among the various objects thrown about the streets were tables, grills and shopping carts.

YouTube video of Cortaca 2013.

The Cortland City Council went on to vote down a proposal to ban Cortaca for one year. Meanwhile, a citywide event held in Albany around St. Patrick’s Day known as Kegs and Eggs reached a level in 2011 that led to the University at Albany changing the timing of its spring break to push students off campus for the holiday. Albany police said they hauled 16 tons of debris off neighborhood streets in 2011, and as one video shows, partiers attempted to push a van on its side before being stopped by police.

YouTube video of Kegs and Eggs 2011 in Albany.

Some colleges like Syracuse University have taken events that have seemingly gotten out of control and incorporated them into school sanctioned events. The so-called Mayfest, a celebration of the end of the spring semester, was originally designed in 2005 by the university to reward academic excellence by not scheduling classes and showcasing student projects instead. But students started seizing the day by engaging in all-day drinking both on and off-campus. In 2010, the university decided to hold classes after all and have since organized a day’s worth of events along with free food and beer in a fenced-in portion of campus for students.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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