Students warned of consequences for 'mass gatherings'

By Lily O'Gara
On April 4, 2014

On Thursday, members of the UNH community received an email from administration detailing the ramifications of mass gatherings on campus.

The email, which was signed by Executive Director of Public Safety Paul Dean and Dean of Students Anne Lawing, opened with, "As the UNH and Durham communities turn the corner towards the last weekends of the semester, we want to remind everyone about the expectations for good behavior that contribute to a safe and pleasant living environment both on campus and in Durham. As well, we want to make sure you are fully briefed on the consequences that students will face should anyone choose to violate the law or Code of Conduct, taking special note of any mass gatherings that may occur." 

The email continued with, "In the past, large crowds have gathered on occasion, requiring police intervention."

In 2013, there were several "mass gatherings" that had to be broken up by various police departments. The first was a 500-person party in the Madbury Court area on April 27. According to an article published in the April 30 issue of The New Hampshire, Durham police officers attempted to disband the large party and were met with insults and bottles being thrown at them. This prompted them to request assistance from the Newmarket and Lee Police Departments, as well as from New Hampshire State Police, who then used pepper balls against the students. 

The second major gathering occurred after the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series. According to an article published in the Nov. 8 issue of The New Hampshire, the Durham Police Department defined the 3,000-person celebration as a "riot." Again, after several warnings, the police utilized pepper balls to disband the crowd. Five students were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Lawing said that the upcoming SCOPE  (Student Committee on Popular Entertainment) concert featuring Nelly is a concern in terms of drug and alcohol use and subsequent arrests or hospitalizations, and the email also said that "staff from the Office of Conduct and Mediation will be at the Nelly concert and will file conduct charges against any student who is arrested at the concert."

However, Dean and Lawing agreed that major concerts do not necessarily result in mass gatherings. Dean said that concert staffing will remain the same as in the past and that it will include the "usual public safety partners."

"We included the reference because in the past, other concerts have ended in many arrests and safety issues ... so we wanted to make sure students know that this time arrests will trigger Code of Conduct violations," Lawing said. 

"We have been working with student leaders in the student organization SCOPE and with both on and off campus stakeholders to provide a safe venue for all concert goers to enjoy," Dean said. 

According to its Facebook page, SCOPE has also begun a new campaign called SCOPE Cares, which seeks to promote a "healthy concert experience." 

The concern seems to lie mainly with unplanned events, such as those that occurred last year. 

"As the spring weekend weather gets warmer, the calls for public safety service increases especially around quality of life issues such as noise, public drunkenness, vandalism and disorderly conduct," Dean said. 

The email said that UNH Police weekend staffing will be increased in order to combat these issues and "spontaneous" gatherings, which Dean said usually occur off campus "at rental properties primarily rented by UNH students."

"Our focus for the last few weekends of the semester is on safety and doing what we can to prevent crowds in public ways from forming," Lawing said. She added that large crowds prevent emergency vehicles from responding "in situations where every second counts." 

The email cautioned recipients that anyone arrested after a lawful order to disperse is given will be suspended on an interim basis, meaning that students are not allowed access to their academics or to campus. 

"I have hope our student body will recognize they are part of a much larger community and being a responsible community member is their civic responsibility," Dean said. 

More information regarding suspension and mass gatherings can be found at http://www.unh.edu/vpsas/ and in the Code of Conduct, located in the 2014 UNH Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities at www.unh.edu/student/rights.


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