‘Mega Parties’ spur discussion of student safety, reputation

Published by adviser, Author: Chris Gordon - Assistant News Editor, Date: September 10, 2015
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First responders were among the thousands attending the University Village at Slippery Rock’s 5th annual block party on Sept. 3, resulting in numerous citations and sparking mixed views within the community.

The Butler Eagle reported that 14 cases of alcohol poisoning occurred at the event, as well as 15 police incidents, including offenses such as drug possession, drunk driving, underage drinking and resisting arrest.

Luv Desai, the property manager of UVSR and a graduate of Slippery Rock University’s business administration program, said the Eagle’s reporting was “false.”

“There were five occurrences,” Desai said.  “There were four underage citations given out, none of which were to our residents, and there was one incident of a guest assaulting a guard.”

The guard involved suffered no serious injury, he added.

State Trooper Dan Kesten, a communication officer at the Butler barracks who served as the Eagle’s source, clarified his original statement.

While there were 15 state police incidents in the Slippery Rock area on Sept. 3, only eight of those occurred at the block party, whereas three happened at The Grove apartments and four took place elsewhere in the borough, he said.

In addition to Kesten’s report, university police handled 15 alcohol-related incidents the night of the block party.

Desai estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 people attended the event, but said other estimates reached as high as 6,000.

In their “Cheers & Jeers” section, the Butler Eagle went on to condemn the UVSR apartment complex.

“Shame on the organizers of off-campus block parties near Slippery Rock University,” the editorial read.  “Their events are putting people in danger and diverting critical public safety personnel, who have better things to do than baby-sit out-of-control college students.”

However, Desai said his first priority was safety and that he personally attended the party.

“We brought in additional security for the event, many ex-military and ex-state police, and the Butler police were called as an extra precaution,” he said.

Desai added that guards stood at all entrances to the event checking for student IDs and that additional security patrolled the event asking for identification.

“No one without a college ID was allowed at the party,” he continued.

In contrast, Rita Abent, the executive director of public relations at SRU, spoke to concerns the university has for the large-scale parties local apartment complexes have hosted in recent years.

“If the apartment complexes are going to keep having these mega-parties, there’s always going to be a security concern,” she said, acknowledging risks created by The Heights’ “Pig Roast 2k15,” which drew crowds of up to 3,000, and a recent pool party hosted by The Grove, which resulted in one guest being life-flighted.

Abent added that, while these off-campus apartments are not under the purview of the university, the parties they throw do have an impact on the impression of SRU students.

“Students take an undeserved slap to the face,” she said.  “The assumption is, ‘oh, you go there, you must attend these parties.'”

Abent said that these assumptions devalue the Slippery Rock degree, harming the employment prospects of all students, whether they attended these parties or not.

Desai differentiated his complex from other local apartments, however, saying UVSR has contributed to many SRU programs, including the basketball team and the University Programming Board.

“We like to help the university out in any way we can,” he said, adding that clean-up crews were hired to clean up trash from the party along Keister Road.

Though he said the event does serve as a showcase of UVSR’s amenities, Desai concluded that the block party was held for residents of the complex and that he in no way attempted to use the event as competition for leases with other large, party-throwing apartment complexes.

“I don’t think they have 4,000 residents at the University Village,” Abent said, noting that many of the advertisements for the event targeted the SRU student-body at large.

Abent concluded that the block party attracted many non-SRU students and that she doubted two-thirds of SRU’s roughly 8,000 students attended the event.

The block party had merit to several SRU students, including Justin Hopf, a junior safety management major.

“It was a good opportunity for freshmen and new students to meet people in a non-academic environment,” he said.

On the block party’s reputation, Andrea Tracy, a senior public relations major, called it “the party of the semester.”

“I can’t think of another party that brings in 6,000 people,” she said.

Alex Hvizdos, an undeclared sophomore, echoed Tracy’s thoughts.

“I think it was a really good way to ring in the semester,” he said.  “DJ Millz was killing it.”

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