A tough message about Spring Weekend was sent to UConn students today in an open letter published by Vice President for Student Affairs John Saddlemire and UConn Chief of Police Robert Hudd.
It begins by stating that, “This year, the three-day period commonly known as ‘Spring Weekend’ at UConn will be significantly different from any recent, previous year.”
Actually, for the first time since Spring Weekend was celebrated in the 1960s, NO on-campus activities are being held.
Normally, there has been a major concert as well as a number of games and activities organized by the student organizations.
The university is calling for a moratorium on the event, and asking students to go home.
Spring Weekend – which has mutated into an unofficial four-day event – falls this year on Thursday, April 21 through Sunday, April 24.
Since April 24 is Easter Sunday, those involved in preparing for Spring Weekend – which includes police, fire and emergency medical workers – hope the unsanctioned, off-campus parties will fizzle sooner.
Student killed last year
The letter from Saddlemire and Hudd follows months of discussion resulting from the violence of last year’s events, which left one student dead. And it follows years of collaboration between the town of Storrs-Mansfield and the university to deal with an event that has racked up bills for the town and caused property damage to homes surrounding the largest parties.
Today’s letter reminds students that last year, UConn student Jafar Karzoun was assaulted off campus (by a nonstudent) during Spring Weekend and died from his injuries days later.
“The memory of this tragedy and the sense of its implications have not diminished in the year that has passed,” the letter states.
Canceling on-campus events is one thing. Getting off-campus students to forego their parties is another. The letter points out that massive drinking parties for which Spring Weekend has become notorious are off-campus and not condoned by the university.
“The University of Connecticut, as an institution, in no way organizes, supports, or condones Spring Weekend. Since its earliest incarnation in the 1960s, it has grown from a comparatively calm, student-based tradition to what it is today: unwieldy gatherings that have the potential to become destructive or dangerous and are poisoned, in large part, by individuals with no connection to UConn,” the letter states.
The letter then outlines the recommendations that were developed by a task force charged with coming up with ways to “deescalate” Spring Weekend that will be put into effect this year.
Many of them have to do with keeping off-campus party crashers out, since police reports indicate much of the violence is instigated by “outsiders.”
Some of the strategies to quell Spring Weekend mayhem:
- Blocking roadways
The UConn Police department, as well as Connecticut State Police, will block certain roads, parking lots and pathways on and around campus. Police will limit outside access to campus and its parking lots. Non-students should not travel to Storrs during this time.
- Parties at the apartment complexes
The University and Police are working closely with the management of the Carriage House and Celeron Square complexes – where the largest gatherings traditionally occur. Last year, according to a task force report, there were 10,000 to 15,000 per night at these parties. And so, the letter states, “access to these areas may be restricted or regulated.”
- No guests in the residence halls
Guests are barred from residence halls from April 21 to April 24. Dining halls will not allow non-students to enter. RAs [residential assistants] and other Residential Life staff will enforce this. Students who violate this temporary restriction by having guests will be subject to disciplinary action.
The university requires students to register any visitors staying on campus and last year there were more than 6,000 on Spring Weekend.
- No on-campus events
No student-related University events are scheduled for this period. The University has called for a voluntary moratorium. Students are urged to return home for the weekend, as many will be doing anyway if they are celebrating Easter with their families.
This last decision has been supported by the Graduate Student Senate as well as the University Senate and UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government, the letter states.
What else can we do?
The letter points out that while UConn can cancel on-campus activities, it is not able to control what students decide to do off-campus… although there can be sanctions for criminal and other actions that violate the university’s code of conduct.
Quoting from the task force report, the letter states, “Many outside the University have asked why UConn doesn’t simply ‘cancel’ the event. The truth is that if it were possible for UConn to do this, we would have done so many, many years ago. In the past, the University organized dry on-campus events in an effort to compete with alcohol-fueled off-campus gatherings. This effort was never successful. Many students simply participated in both, and non-students came to Mansfield specifically to attend the off-campus gatherings.”
“Spring Weekend is a deeply unfortunate, unwanted tradition that increasingly attracts people with no connection to UConn – and little to lose. It puts students, our campus, and the town at risk and, as we have seen, can have tragic consequences. It needs to deescalate and eventually end for good,” the letter states.
The letter concludes by quoting remarks in the task force report that address the disappointment, or even resentment, some students may feel this year:
“We are aware that despite the risks and possible consequences, there are many UConn students who see Spring Weekend as an entitlement. There is undoubtedly a perception that the University’s efforts to significantly limit and curtail Spring Weekend represent an effort to unfairly erode the enjoyment some associate with it.
“All involved should understand that the University’s first and greatest concern is the safety of our students and the sanctity of our campus and the surrounding community. Spring Weekend has without question, become a magnet for toxic behavior and criminality that poses too great a risk to the UConn community for the University to tolerate it any longer in its current form. This is our sole motivation in seeking to diminish it.”
Whether or not the town and UConn will still provide a “triage” station on Hunting Lodge Road from which to address injuries or provide other services is not addressed in this letter.
Posted April 13, 2011
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