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Number of UMass students disciplined for off-campus misbehavior declines during fall

Winter on the UMass Amherst campus.

Winter on the UMass Amherst campus. Purchase photo reprints »

Statistics released Thursday by the Office of the Dean of Students at UMass show that between Sept. 1 and Dec. 8, students disciplined under the code of conduct for off-campus behavior was down by more than 30 percent from fall 2012. Fewer than one in 10 students were repeat offenders.

Enku Gelaye, interim vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life, linked the change to messages to students about valuing the Amherst community and understanding the consequences of negative behavior.

“We are very encouraged by the decline in the number of reported incidents in the community,” Gelaye said in a statement. “That reflects our ongoing efforts to collaborate with town partners and to educate our students about the importance of being good neighbors.”

The 227 off-campus incidents reported to UMass officials at weekly meetings by Amherst police marked an 11.6 percent decline from 268 incidents in fall 2012.

The sessions review arrests and citations involving UMass students.

More substantially, just 289 students were involved in last fall’s incidents, a 32.9 percent decline from the 431 students who were subject to disciplinary procedures during the fall semester in 2012.

Of the 289 students in the most recent report, 8 percent had been involved previously in an off-campus incident. That was well below the 18 percent rate for repeat offenders from the fall 2012 report.

In general, there were fewer incidents that involved large numbers of students and fewer involving off-campus homes that became nuisance houses last fall.

Amherst Police Capt. Christopher Pronovost said efforts to saturate neighborhoods close to the campus and other problem areas, such as Meadow Street in North Amherst, with a strong police presence is partially responsible for this.

“I would like to think it had a deterrent effect, from the police end,” Pronovost said.

There were fewer disturbances and large-scale parties affecting surrounding neighborhoods last fall compared to a year earlier, according to police. Violations of the open container, noise, nuisance house and keg bylaws dropped from 395 in fall 2012 to 261 between late August and mid-December 2013.

Pronovost credited UMass efforts in enforcing its student code of conduct for both on- and off-campus behavior. “There’s definitely more accountability,” Pronovost said.

Gelaye said joint police patrols by UMass and Amherst police departments in local neighborhoods and the “Walk This Way” initiative, getting students to avoid using Fearing Street late at night, have been helpful. She said the university also has developed relationships with landlords to prevent problems at rentals.

The report shows that after reviewing the incidents, the university issued sanctions against 210 of the 289 students. There were no sanctions in 29 cases, and 50 remain unresolved.

Of the sanctions, three students received immediate suspensions and 31 received deferred suspensions. There were 110 students who received university probation and 49 received warning letters.

Pronovost said police will continue to enforce town bylaws and will not be complacent, even with the trend of fewer students disciplined moving in the right direction.

“We welcome any good news, but it won’t change anything about how we prepare for the spring,” Pronovost said.

The department, he said, is already focused on March 8, the last Saturday before spring break, when a bar promotion known as Blarney Blowout celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. Last year, that day saw a major disturbance with more than 2,000 people at Townehouse Apartments in North Amherst, after previous years in which most serious incidents occurred in the downtown commercial district.

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