Fests: Too hard to handle?

Out-of-towners the top troublemakers at colleges’ street bashes

After a house fire during Palmer Fest marred the already shaky reputation of the annual street celebration, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis reached out to his counterparts throughout the state in regard to spring fest behavior.

The result: University administrators from schools in the 14-member Inter-University Council of Ohio are concerned that the campus gatherings are too hard to handle.

Among those schools are Miami University, Kent State University, the University of Akron and Ohio State University — all of which have differing opinions of how to handle student behavior during spring fests.

“The president sent a letter to his peers, and Dr. (Kent) Smith sent a letter to his peers,” said Becky Watts, McDavis’ chief of staff. “(They’re trying to find out) who has come to Athens and made bad choices.”

Timeka Rashid, Kent State’s assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Student Involvement, attributed the university’s College Fest rowdiness on April 21 to attendees from out of town.

McDavis tied that sentiment to Athens at a May 9 town-hall meeting. Only about half the 124 arrests at Palmer and Palmer Place fests were OU students.

“The issue comes when students organize something on their own off campus where jurisdiction falls out of our hands and into the city’s hands,” Rashid said.

Although none of the 33 people arrested at College Fest 2012 was from OU — considered the wildest since 2009 — only nine were from Kent State, lending some credence to McDavis and Rashid’s beliefs.

No OU students were arrested at Kent State’s annual Flash Fest on April 19, headlined by Third Eye Blind. Rashid said the university oversaw the fest and that administrators and the university police were present.

“If you look at Akron, for example, they did digging with their area police and found that a lot of students being arrested aren’t affiliated with their university,” Rashid said.

Students are more inclined to cause a disruption at a university other than their own, said Charles Fey, Akron’s vice president for student engagement and success.

“I think that a student who has pride in his or her institution would take much more care and care about their environment than those who aren’t a part of that institution,” Fey said.

Although Fey said some of the events on streets — like that of Palmer Fest — do cause a ruckus, they have never reached the level of Palmer Fest.

“We haven’t had a magnitude of problems like that,” Fey said.

Fests are a problem both for OU and Athens Police, but Patrick Maughan, OSU’s director for risk and emergency management, said fires can be a severe problem.

“In the past, we had a fatal fire off campus at OSU, and some of the folks were from visiting campuses,” Maughan said. “You end up with too many people than what the apartment is designed to hold, and there are more bodies than the space can handle. People from different schools aren’t aware of exits and they aren’t familiar with the turf that they are on.”


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