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University of Massachusetts sends students in Amherst, and their parents, messages about spring expectations

These correspondences began with direct emails sent to all students and parents Thursday from Jean Kim, the vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life. They are designed to educate the recipients about the consequences of violating state laws, town bylaws and the student code conduct.

The messaging campaign has the support of Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy as a way to work with the town to deal with unacceptable behavior.

“Our approach must include communicating clear standards for behavior, enforcement and education, and examining underlying issues such as alcohol abuse and the range of social activities available to students,” Subbaswamy said in a statement.

The emails went out less than three weeks after a large gathering at Townehouse Apartments on March 9, which coincided with the Blarney Blowout bar promotion, turned into a riot with bottles and snowballs being thrown into the crowd and underage drinking occurring.

Since that weekend, Town Manager John Musante has requested and received assistance from UMass in providing the money to pay for additional ambulance staffing and joint police patrols.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewksi said the university has sent out similar emails in the past, though these are typically tied to specific national events, like the Super Bowl or World Series, or campus and community celebrations like spring concerts or the Hobart Hoedown.

“The distinction here is we’re viewing this as the beginning of spring and to set a tone quite clearly as spring begins,” Blaguszewski said.

In her email to students, Kim wrote, “As spring arrives, the weather encourages opportunities to gather and socialize. In the coming weeks, please remember that you are a representative of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Your actions dictate the reputation of the institution, and by extension, the value of your degree.”

Kim focused specifically on actions that could be criminal, such as throwing objects that might lead to felony assault and battery charges, and civil, such as $300 tickets related to noise and nuisance houses.

Students are also reminded that, under the code of conduct, they can face discipline including suspension, expulsion or removal from campus housing, have a disciplinary record placed on their files for seven years and can be referred to the university’s Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students program.

“Enjoy the arrival of spring responsibly. Don’t fuel incidents that degrade the value of your degree and may lead to significant and lasting consequences,” Kim wrote.

In addition, Student Government Association President Akshay Kapoor has written a letter to his fellow students advising them to use good judgment when socializing, observing “that we live among families just like ours at home, with children, elderly and residents who are not necessarily UMass affiliated, so it is important to be respectful.”

Kim’s message to parents asks them to have direct conversations with their students about expectations, that the code of conduct applies on and off campus and that dispersal orders means people must leave gatherings immediately.

Musante said he appreciates the university getting out ahead on this. “I’m very supportive of this effort,” Musante said.

Musante said this fits with a fundamental part of the university’s mission to educate. The student-to-student enforcing of expectations is also welcome, he said.

The messaging supplements the university agreeing to fund two additional ambulances for the town’s fire department to address concerns about intoxicated students, as well as joint police patrols expected to begin April 5 and a police mobile field force designed to prevent large-scale disturbances.

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