Student misbehavior off campus declines in latest UMass report

Staff Writer
Published: 8/24/2017 9:47:06 PM

AMHERST — A decline in off-campus incidents involving University of Massachusetts students is the result of continued cooperation between the town and UMass, including its police departments, according to university officials.

Data included in the Off-Campus Conduct Report, which covers the 2016-17 academic year, show that UMass students were involved in 141 off-campus incidents, a drop of 39 percent from the preceding year, when there were 232 incidents. These incidents involved 210 students, down from 308 students the previous year, for a 32 percent decline.

In the first report released covering student behavior off campus, for the 2012-13 academic year, 519 students were involved in 348 incidents off campus.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said the university is pleased with the latest data and the indication that neighborhoods are seeing less impact from student behavior.

“There has been a consistent downward trend,” Blaguszewski said.

UMass officials are pointing to increased collaborations to address neighborhood concerns about loud parties and drunken activity.

Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life, in a statement praised the “ongoing partnership for complaint response and educational outreach” led by Eric Beal, of the university’s Office of External Relations, and Bill Laramee of the Amherst Police Department.

The data, Blaguszewski said, are compiled by the dean of students’ office, which takes disciplinary actions under the code of student conduct related to incidents that occur off campus.

Representatives from the dean of students’ office meet weekly with Amherst Police to review arrests and citations and to track off-campus violations of the conduct code. After reviewing the cases, the university may issue sanctions ranging from a reprimand to expulsion. Other sanctions include counseling, housing restrictions, reflection papers and suspensions.

The report jibes with statistics Amherst Police released in June showing that the number of police responses and arrests related to noise complaints and off-campus disturbances is going down over the last five years.

“It’s what we’ve been trying to establish with sector-based policing and community policing,” Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said at the time. “It’s starting to show its effects.”

Since the beginning of the 2012 school year, the number of noise complaints has dropped by 36 percent, from 748 to 480 in the recently completed school year. The number of arrests related to these calls also dropped by 51 percent, from 1,353 to 660, over the same period.

As in recent years, the most common offense was unlawful possession or use of alcohol, with 67 incidents, followed by 62 violations of state, local or federal law, and 43 for reckless behavior.

The most common sanction was participation in the BASICS program, a UMass course designed to reduce risky behavior and get students to understand consequences of alcohol abuse.

“We are delighted that over the past four years the trend is a clear reduction in off-campus violations,” Gelaye said.

A party registration program known as Party Smart, in which the Off-Campus Student Center mentors students in responsible behavior and helps them register gatherings with Amherst Police, appeared to be part of the success. With 333 parties registered, police made just 34 courtesy calls after getting complaints from neighbors. So long as the party hosts are able to quiet or disperse a party within 20 minutes of getting a call, there won’t be a response to break up a party. Only one warning and one citation was issued to a registered party between September and May.

Gelaye said sanctions under the student code are also working, as 6 percent or fewer of students are repeated offenders.

“The low number shows that our program of sanctions helps students understand that misconduct has consequences, and adulthood means being responsible for one’s actions,” Gelaye said.

A corresponding rise in community outreach calls by Amherst Police has taken place, more than doubling from 540 such calls five years ago to 1,163 during the past year.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com


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