UMass pledges action against students at large off-campus party

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus COURTESY PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2021 7:42:59 PM

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts students who attended or hosted a large off-campus gathering Saturday will be given interim suspensions, and could face additional discipline under the student code of conduct, according to a letter sent by a UMass official.

In the strongly worded communication Monday, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, wrote that at least 200 students who attended a party in North Amherst “flagrantly flouted the rules over the weekend.”

“It has become clear that a relatively small but highly visible subsection of the student population in the Amherst area feels entitled to break the agreed-upon policies and rules so they can party, with no regard for the health and safety of their peers,” LaBanc wrote. “This selfish and disrespectful attitude contributes to the spread of the virus and puts all of us at risk.”

LaBanc’s letter notes that residents called Amherst Police to disperse the students, even though university policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as town expectations and state public health mandates, continue to prohibit such get-togethers. Most of the people at the party were also not wearing face coverings or socially distancing.

Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said this past weekend, which in recent years has been the final one before spring break and has featured pre-St. Patrick’s Day revelry, was busier than most have been since students returned for the fall semester.

Livingstone said the gathering at Townehouse Apartments, 50 Meadow St., was concerning due to the number of attendees and the behavior of those on hand.

“We are working closely with UMass administration to identify those individuals who were in attendance,” Livingtone said. “Those units that were identified as hosts received either nuisance house citations and or were arrested.”

Logs supplied by police show that officers first responded to the location at 2:31 p.m., arresting three men on nuisance house violations, and two other people for being minors in possession of alcohol. At 5:18 p.m., there more individuals were summoned to court for violating both the noise and nuisance house bylaws, along with three minors in possession of alcohol.

Students who receive interim suspensions, if living on campus, will have to move from their residence halls because they pose an immediate health risk to other residents.

The office of Student Conduct and Community Standards has received nearly 1,000 referrals for violations of policies since the beginning of 2021, with most of these related to the interim pandemic policy.

“Due to the risks inherent in unregulated social gatherings and because students have been notified on numerous occasions of the expectations, this behavior is clearly an egregious violation of university policy and swift action is essential,” LaBanc wrote. “We will continue to adjudicate future cases in this manner, and we will expedite the most blatant violations, such as those that occurred this weekend.”

LaBanc thanked students who have followed rules, observing that they are seen and appreciated.

“The actions of these haughty few are not representative of the larger student population who consistently demonstrate their commitment to public safety,” LaBanc wrote. “This incident (and others like it) will be dealt with swiftly and effectively so those of you abiding by the rules can enjoy more university privileges.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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