'Blowout' passes without widespread student disruption at UMass

  • Hundreds of students stream into the Mullins Center for a free concert featuring Jason Derulo, Migos, and Capital Cities on Saturday during the Blarney Blowout festivities at UMass.  DAN LITTLE

Published: 3/6/2016 8:53:23 AM

AMHERST — Swarms of University of Massachusetts students clad in green roamed the Amherst campus Saturday morning, some gathering on lawns to play beer pong or sitting on porches drinking alcohol.

But a significant police presence seemed to keep the so-called Blarney Blowout festivities largely under control.

By 5 p.m., Amherst Police reported seven arrests, mostly for liquor law violations and one for disorderly conduct. They also summonsed 10 people to court.

Two years ago, 55 people were arrested in Amherst in connection with pre-St. Patrick’s Day partying.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way things went,” Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said at a Saturday evening press conference at Town Hall.

The Amherst Fire Department and UMass Emergency Medical Services treated three people at the Mullins Center, transporting one intoxicated person to Cooley Dickinson Hospital. The fire department also transported three other intoxicated people to the hospital.

This was somewhat similar to last year, when police reported six arrests, one hospital transport and 19 people treated at a Mullins Center concert.

It was a far cry from 2014, which saw massive disorderly crowds.

Police presence

As they did last year, UMass and Amherst Police relied on help from more than a dozen other police forces. The school also hosted a free concert and restricted guests and on-campus parking. The officers staked out a presence on campus and in town, wearing fluorescent yellow jackets, some with K-9 units in tow.

When issues arose or gatherings began growing too large, Livingstone said, police spoke with students and asked them to tone things down.

“Students were very compliant,” he said. “No real issues, no real conflicts.”

At one house on Sunset Avenue, recorded music from the Dropkick Murphys blared as a group of people drank on the roof and a picnic table in the front yard. Then two police officers showed up, asking to talk to someone who lived there, and most of the partygoers scattered.

Around the corner, on Fearing Street, UMass professor Edwin Gentzler was out walking his dog and stopped to thank several police officers for keeping an eye on his neighborhood.

In years past, he said, “by noon they’d be drunk and headed to the bars, shouting obscenities and peeing in bushes, just creating real havoc in the neighborhood.”

Since the police supervision ramped up, “it’s really been a night and day difference,” he said.

Nearby, UMass sophomore Lys Raples, 20, and two other of Iota Gamma Upsilon sorority delivered homemade Irish soda bread to several Chicopee officers patrolling the street. Raples said it was a family recipe she had been making since she was 5 — “no caraway seeds because some people are impartial.”

Mullins draw

Hundreds of students streamed toward the Mullins Center, where a free concert featuring Jason Derulo, hip-hop trio Migos and pop group Capital Cities began at 11 a.m. Around 3,200 students filled the Mullins Center Saturday afternoon, according to a UMass press release. Last year, the concert drew around 5,200 students.

Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life, said the day’s relative calm reflected “months and months of planning,” and offered a chance for the school to think about “how we really instill important values about what it means to live in a community.”

She thanked students, particularly, for helping to keep the peace.

“Students seem to be behaving pretty well,” said Sonya Satinsky, who directs the university’s Center for Health Promotion, as she stood outside the Mullins Center with several student affairs colleagues. “We’re not seeing much of what we’ve seen in past years.”

Safe partying

UMass sophomore Maggie Moffett, 19, of Topsfield was handing out Tootsie Rolls as her peers made their way to the concert. As the student leader of Team Positive Presence, a group working Saturday to keep the revelry safe, Moffett said she wanted to “make sure people are positive and respecting the campus.”

Leaving Mullins, Patrick Moroney, 19, said he had enjoyed seeing Migos and was planning to spend the rest of the day relaxing with friends. He admitted the day wasn’t quite what he expected: massive arrests and people flipping cars.

“It’s not really Blarney Blowout,” he said. “But it’s fun, I’m hanging out with my boys.”

Stephanie McFeeters can be reached at smcfeeters@gazettenet.com.

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