Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's My Party

Townhouse riot 2012

UMass will host a B-I-G meeting this afternoon at 1:00 PM between Amherst landlords, town officials and of course UMass mid-to-upper -level bureaucrats to discuss strategies to deal with rowdy off campus student behavior over the next six weeks.  No the Chancellor probably will not bother to show up.

It's at the spiffy (somewhat) new UMass Police Station, built with $12 million of our tax dollars,  and starts at 1:00 PM.  The press is not invited.

Also not invited are the stakeholders most impacted by the University's failure to control its students:  Neighbors.

A couple decades ago UMass owed the town $200,000 in traffic citations that the courts had mistakenly sent them instead of the town.  Naturally UMass did not want to repay it.  I of course made a major fuss.  A meeting was held at Hill Boss's house between the Chancellor and town officials to discuss the matter.  The press was not invited.

The District Attorney found the meeting to "violate the spirit of the Open Meeting Law."

The problem with a state institution holding these secret meetings and then issuing a well scripted press release is The People do not get a true picture of what goes on.

And since The People pay all these folks salaries and operations costs, they have a right to hear the whole story.


Walter Graff said...

No one is invited for one simple reason. Each meeting a large dump truck drops a big pile of sand at wherever the meeting is. When everyone gets there they all stick there heads in it. So if you were say a press photographer all you would have as a picture is everyone's ass as they bent over and stuck their heads in the sand.

Problem with the "problem" is they have no solution. You need to understand the problem before you can find a solution. You can't buy a tiger, put it in a cage with no place to play and then wonder why it bites everyone. The town and University need to stimulate a social scene for 25,000 people, simple. If you don't make it okay to be a twenty something then you are going to have a "problem". Oh, you do.

Kids come here, are told by their parents what a nice town it is, go to school then say, wait, there is nothing to do here. The town has nothing and shuts down at 8pm. Where is a music venues to hear music I want to hear. Where are the places to hang out other than lifeless dive bars that have a pool table and darts that I've already been to 100 times?

Wait!!! This just in. A picture of today's meeting was just passed across my desk. It shows the meeting and a chart showing the history of response of the University and town to the needs of student population along with predictions in future class size:

Anonymous said...

I've asked this question before but I'll ask it again. UConn is also located in a very small town. Probably smaller than Amherst. What are they doing differently so that they don't have these problems? Anyone know?

Walter Graff said...


"UConn is also located in a very small town but doesn't have problems"

UCONN suffers the same fate as Amherst in some ways but not in others. Good in that they have an off campus housing authority, and off campus school policy that is ENFORCED, and they let students actually make decisions about school sponsored and non sponsored events. They also have a Department of Wellness and Alcohol and Other Prevention Services that is proactive.

But on the bad side they have drinking like any school. In a survey some years back that somehow shocked the school administration (other than the school president who said it was clear to him), of 2,571 students surveyed, 1,709 students said they blacked out while drinking -- "being conscious, but having no recollection due to substance use" -- and a quarter of those indicated that they did in fact black out during the infamous Spring Weekend.

the following is from

"Over the years, Spring Weekend became synonymous with binge drinking, off-campus (including out-of-state) party crashers, cars set on fire, reports of rape, and even violence resulting in death.

The problem wasn’t with the university-sanctioned events carefully organized by students. Trouble brewed in the mobs that congregated over the three days, mainly at apartment complexes on Hunting Lodge Road adjacent to UConn’s north campus (as well as within UConn’s X-Lot.) Triage units were stationed at Carriage House Apartments, for example, to deal with injuries and other emergencies, such as alcohol poisoning.

Neighbors of these apartment complexes braced themselves each year on Spring Weekend for damage created on their properties by drunken young people – broken glass, garbage and the aftermath of party-goers using lawns to relieve themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the town, State Police and other emergency responders, and the university in an attempt to keep party-goers safe and damages to a minimum.

In the past few years, more and more stringent strategies were employed, including police road blocks to keep non-UConn-students away.

Two years ago, both the town, rental property owners and the university had enough, and declared a moratorium – no official Spring Weekend.

They also called on students to cooperate. While this did not eliminate all off-campus parties, it did put a damper on the event.

Now, UConn President Susan Herbst feels it’s possible to revive Spring Weekend – in the spirit in which it was originally intended.

Spring Weekend this year is April 25-27. Students are developing events with a theme of “UConn Learns, UConn Serves, UConn Cares,” that may include concerts, food trucks and volunteer service."

Notice a key difference is the town and the school are proactive, blocking students from doing it, offering triage units knowing they are, and not sticking their head in the sand and waiting for a problem like Amherst does when rather than break up an event at a home with 100 cars, Amherst waits till there is a problem then responds.

For instance during the many parties sanctioned buy the school, and organized by the students, police are asked to come and monitor, rather than respond after-the-fact.

Walter Graff said...


UCONN doesn't waste time on studies to prove kids drink, rather they create task forces often compromised of state police, school officials, and town officials. And what do these task forces do? Do they stick their head in the sand and wait for a problem? No, they know kids will party so they create ways to allow it and to MANAGE IT, NOT IGNORE IT.

They are a great example of a town that knows there is a plethora of research on college social scenes and how to manage them and they follow many government guidelines for that. And for a town of 10,000 people they do pretty darn good.

For instance to prevent problems rather than wait for 250 kids to gather in a basement, campus police often set up DUI checkpoints, block parking lots and closing roads as needed. The school works WITH students to make for safer and more responsible attitudes about partying.

This is what happens when you actually respond to students needs, and you let a police force do it's job in prevention. Problem with Amherst is it doesn't have enough officers for every day issues on weekends let alone prevention and the state police aren't invited to help. When you have a town council and no one in charge, no one makes any decisions. And when you have a school that refuses to take their heads out of the sand, that's what you get.

But like Amherst will, UCONN had to learn the hard way. For years the school ignored the issues and it had big problems. It took a student being killed in 1998 before the school and the town relaized they needed to do something.

And while it's not perfect, what they do to pro-act, get students involved in decisions, offer realistic education on the issues, and punish students in a way that makes them think twice. On the enforcement side they prepare for problems with both emergency response and police enforcement making a huge difference in what happens in the first place.

Want to see a big difference in policing Just look at the recent arrests:

Robert Zachary Back, 21, was arrested by University of Connecticut Police on Celeron Square and charged with second-degree breach of peace.

Vietdoan C. Nguyen, 27, charged with failure to have headlamps lit, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a stop sign violation.

Jun Hashiwaki, 28, charged with failure to have headlamps lit and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Cody J. Kaczmarek, 20, charged with creating a public disturbance and third-degree criminal mischief.

Kevin John Leahy, 20 charged with failure to pay or plead.

Michael Thomas Ford, 22, charged with second-degree breach of peace and criminal damage of landlord property.

Stacy Leigh Tournas, 22, charged with two counts of second-degree harassment.

Notice something? Sure you have your DUIs. But you have quality of life arrests. YOu have an off campus living policy AND IT IS ENFORCED!

And from a police perspective, like most police forces learn, when you stop someone from spitting, you stop much worse crimes. When a student damages a the off campus house, he is arrested, not warned. He'll never do it again and ten of his friends will be afraid to. Students are educated by police to know that getting arrested will affect your career, your college education, and your life. Here we hand out cookies.

Walter Graff said...

Want to know one of the key reasons UCONN has far fewer issues. It's what I talked about some time ago, something this town and the school needs to do but will not. Create rules for living off campus and enforce them. And let police do their job. Police enforce everything at UCONN. Clear rules and enforced punishments are met by both on-campus and off-campus students. Here the police are allowed to react to everything.

Want to know the difference as a result? At UMASS they throw bottles and feces as police because they don't respect them. At UCONN watch the number of arrests for damage to off campus homes, acting out in public, and all the other minor crimes. Or just read some student comments to understand why students are far too scared of the consequences of getting in trouble:

"Uconn police seem to abuse their power everyday and it does not make for a pleasant atmosphere. I have met a few cops that are civil but many of them seem out to get as many arrests as possible when in actuality they are here to serve US and PROTECT us. As young adults they believe we do not know about our rights and for the most part it is true so they try and take advantage of us. Some how this needs to stop."

Anonymous said...

I can offer a partial answer to the question of what UCONN is doing differently. The university of Connecticut operates its own fully staffed, professional fire department which is seperate from any municipal agencies. They maintain staffed stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on both the Storrs and Medical Center campuses. The department operates 7 ambulances, 4 engine companies, 2 heavy rescues, 1 light rescue, 1 ladder company, and several specialized units. Thier webpage states that in 2010 the responded to 7000+ requests for service.

As stated, this is only a partial answer as it does not speak to police activity or off campus incidents.

Jeff Parr

Anonymous said...

Has anyone spoken to the UConn Police Chief, the former UMass Police Chief, who still has a home in Hadley? Perhaps she could give Amherst some (free) constructive advice...

Tom McBride said...

Larry, I thought I heard you raising an objection to the cost of the UMass police station. I know you'd rather the students caused fewer problems, but in absence of that should the town police be called in to campus and the town foot the bill for more law enforcement?

Larry Kelley said...

I have no problem with the UMass police station (although I did not think it very cool for the video cameras to be running when officers did not know it).

And town police are not called very often to campus (last time was the Superbowl riot).

Townhouse apartments, scene of the Blarney Blowout riot, are located on town turf (and UMPD as well as State PD helped us out there).

Walter Graff said...

/"They maintain staffed stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on both the Storrs and Medical Center campuses. The department operates 7 ambulances, 4 engine companies, 2 heavy rescues, 1 light rescue, 1 ladder company, and several specialized units. Thier webpage states that in 2010 the responded to 7000+ requests for service."/

Jeff is is only part but a big part. It talks about preparedness. It talks about knowing the game and playing for it, not ignoring it. It talks about preparedness, acceptance, and rules, rules that are enforced.

I wonder if UMASS' agenda for today's meeting is was same old thing. I wonder if it's lets deal with a problem rather than lets deal with the reality of the situation. Because when you make 20,000 students a problem then you have a problem.

UCONN has 17,000 students and 7000+ calls in a town of 10,000 but clearly they are far more prepared than this town that has a three stooges worth of a fire department. That is in no way a put down of the wonderful, hardworking FD and PD. Rather it's a statement about the town government and their choices.

We haven't hit that plateau of calls yet, but they do it more prepared and expecting it. We seem to do it as an afterthought. I hope that the University is starting to look at the research and all the plethora of material made available by the federal government on effective ways to deal with large student populations and the issues area related to drinking and crime.

From the picture of the meeting agenda Larry posted it seemed like business as usual. Everyone bring a brush so we can white wash the rocks that keep people off the grass. We'll talk about all the great programs we have for students and all the wonderful housing conditions. And maybe give everyone a cookie. I hope I'm wrong. I hope this school is going to take more of a tough love stance. It has worked on many campuses around the country.

UCONN has off campus and on campus regulations set up with all outside agencies that rent. One apartment complex has a 41 page agreement. Might sound like a lot but it covers the basis. Little rules such as no more than 20 people in an apartment at any one party. No more than six on a terrace. No one on a roof. In other words it doesn't assume responsibility, but requires it. Makes it part of the college ideology. Builds school pride, respect and character in the way the school expects its students to act. And when they don't they pay the price.

UMASS offers links to rentals and thinks the town charging you a $300 fine when you do wrong is going to stop what the town makes a 'problem'.

What they should be doing is setting up town-wide general living guidelines for all matriculated students, and enforcing them strictly like other school communities do. And like other college towns, when you violate, you lose your place to live in your residence and jeopardize your standing with the school.

Sound tough? I call it being responsible. I call it playing by simple rules. In some socialist communities in western Mass it is unfortunately looked at as too much police power and too much regulation. But in the towns that enforce it, it works very well.

Tom McBride said...

Larry noted cameras in the station, I can't remember the story on that issue, ....a few months ago? I think everybody should know about it, and there should be cameras everywhere in the station and in every cruiser, and maybe a mic attached to everybody cop.

Larry Kelley said...

Cameras are fine but not sound.

In Mass you can't record somebody without telling them first they are being recorded.

Video only is fine, however.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone recognize any landlords in Larry's right and left side of room photos? Who was invited that didn't show up? Who should have been invited but wasn't?

Larry Kelley said...

I'm asking those questions now (assuming my UMass friends are still talking to me).

Stephan Gharagagian was not there but I'm trying to find out if he was invited or not.

Jamie Cherewatti also springs to mind.

Walter Graff said...

But you can record an on duty police officer in Mass. As long as it is open and not secret and in a public place and you are not interfering with the officer. Open means he knows you are recording. Best bet that on the tape he is told you are recording audio and he clearly hears you.

Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011) ("[A] citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.")

Larry Kelley said...

I always make my presence known when I'm shooting an event.

Although I will have to rethink that a bit after the full can of beer was thrown at my head during "Blarney Blowout".

Walter Graff said...

That is the important part because while you have a camera sticking in the air an officer can say court that he had no idea you were recording. Best to let him know. But he has no right to ask you why you are doing it or who you are.

Anonymous said...

walter sure does take some long-ass breaks.

Dr. Ed said...

(Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011) ("[A] citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.")

Walter, I never cease to be amazed at how you seem to think that citizens should have civil rights while concurrently thinking that the APD ought to totally ignore the civil rights of UM students....

... Unless you are arguing that UM students aren't human beings -- and that is what the Klan used to argue in a different form of disgraceful discrimination -- you are being logically inconsistent.