(U-WIRE) STORRS, Conn. – Let’s set the scene. Two guys are playing beer pong at a University of Connecticut student’s apartment. They lose. Logical reaction to this? Pull out a gun and threaten their erstwhile host and some of the other guests. Yeah, beer pong is serious business. It seems that the world has gone mad and we’re right in the heart of this bad craziness. One week it’s kids getting stabbed, the next someone gets hit by a drunk driver and two weeks ago, this happened.
Notice the word “seems” in the paragraph above, it’s important. We have to import our insanity around here, all of the stabbing victims and the stabber were not UConn students and the guys who pulled out the gun are not students, but rather residents of New London. To figure this all out I talked with Julie Bell-Elkins, the Associate Dean of Students, about what happened. “What has happened over the years is that a culture has been created,” she said. “I think it’s based on Spring Weekend, the press we get on Spring Weekend. There’s a perception with folks that don’t have any association with the school ? If you wanna party, go to Carriage House, go to UConn.” Sean Cox, the officer who arrested the New London men, gave nearly the exact same reply when I asked him about it, saying “I would say many of the people that we arrest are not students at UConn. However, an environment has been created and publicized that this is the place to party. What many students fail to realize is that they have created an environment, that has attracted people who would take advantage of the situation.”
It’s our fault. Let that sink in. We have done this. Every time you curse the police when they break up a party, every time someone gets pulled over on Saturday night, every time someone gets stabbed, shot or run over at a party, repeat the words “This is our fault.” It won’t make you feel any better, but at least you will be speaking the truth. I’m not advocating the end of partying here, and neither are the administration or the police (not directly, anyway). The point I’m trying to make is that there needs to be a fundamental shift in how the partying is done.
Let’s look at the average weekend at Carriage – people everywhere, walking to the apartments. The houses themselves are on display, lines extending around the houses, everyone hanging out in the front yard, music blasting, probably a game of beer pong going on right in front of the front door. You wonder why the police are everywhere? When you have 50 or so people in your front yard, all drinking from big red cups, yelling over the music? Yeah, nothing could go wrong here. Oh, look, Tim is throwing a rock at a tree! Now he’s telling it to stay away from his girl! There’s a reason the police are there, and it’s not to break up your party – it’s to ensure your safety from idiots like Tim. The question is, how do we keep Tim away from the party?
Both Bell-Elkins and Cox advocate toning things down. Bell-Elkins stated, “Don’t have the party on the front lawn. Folks will walk from the university to Carriage House. If they see lights on, and they see the garage door open, they see folks out on the front lawn, they’ll just come in. If you have the party in your house, in the basement, on the back porch, you’re more able to control who comes into your place.” Better yet, simply restrict who can be there. Facebook makes this incredibly easy – just invite the people you actually want to be there, tell them to bring a friend or two, take the names and only allow those people in. I know you’ll have fewer people there, but you won’t attract the attention of the police.
What if your party is crashed by the wrong people (that is to say uninvited people and people acting shady)? Just ask the police for assistance. Bell-Elkins related the story to me about a host rounding up the people he actually wanted there into one location and then having the police clear out the unwanted attendants. And that was it; the police showed up, got rid of the unwanted element and didn’t do anything else in regards to the party.
The police are the greatest resource at these parties in terms of safety. They are not there to break up your party, they are there to make you safe. Everyone wants to make them out to be villains, sitting around all night trying to stop your fun. No, they are staying up all night trying to stop violent incidents from occurring. It’s this aversion from the police that put the two New London men at Knollwood that night, a place with a less omnipresent police force than Carriage and Celeron. Would they have pulled the gun at Carriage? It’s a possibility, but with more police there, they probably would have thought twice.
Finally, it’s important to repeat that neither the administration nor the police are trying to end partying and that’s not what I’m pushing for either. What all three of us want is a measure of responsibility from hosts and party-goers. The police and the administration gave me the same tips on how to get them off your back about the partying. They already know that you’re selling alcohol without a license to minors and they are letting it slide for the most part. We have to work with them on this, not against them. It’s like playing with an elastic. You pull it out, and it snaps back, and the farther you pull it, the harder it snaps back. We’ve been pulling on this elastic for a long time and if we don’t give it some more slack, the mark it will leave will become permanent.