Pilot Party Policy Review

(Jesse Pagliuca)– Amherst College’s new party policy allows students great freedom in throwing parties. Students can throw parties in almost any dorm on campus without interference from the police, as long as they abide by a few simple rules. It is literally the MOST liberal party policy in all of the NESCAC. Rather than having College Police enforce rules, this program places the responsibility of throwing a safe party in the hands of students.

While this is an incredible policy for students, it might not be here for long. This new policy is in in a trial phase, meaning that the administration can pull the program if there are too many problems with it. So far, the administration’s approval of the policy is lukewarm. 60 percent of parties have been successful (i.e. no infractions), while 40 percent have been unsuccessful. (Note: This does NOT mean that 40 percent of parties have been broken up. The vast majority haven’t. The bulk of parties have incurred infractions after the party was over, when police find empty handles of hard alcohol lying around early in the a.m.) While the administration views the 60-40 split as a promising start, they will likely need to see this ratio change to something closer to 80-20 to justify keeping the policy, according to administrators on the Alcohol and Other Drugs committee. Here are some notes on the main reasons parties get shut down or are given infractions.

Why do parties get shut down?

Overcrowding:

Amherst College Police have to make sure that fire codes are being followed, and when a dorm is overcrowded (as dictated by those fire codes), they have to shut down the party. I know that one of the coolest things about Amherst is that all parties are open to all students, and the downside is this creates the opportunity for overcrowding. I’ve heard criticisms that the overcrowding rules force hosts to disallow Amherst students at the door. However, in my experience, most overcrowding occurs because of an unexpected influx of Five College students.

Did you know that the UMass students have a Twitter feed (UMass parties) devoted to finding out where parties are and that it has roughly the same number of followers (1700) as our entire student population? Some administrators on the Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee posit that this account caused the large influx of UMass students at Crossett Christmas. So if you’re planning a party, I would advise posting info on them using a private group and posting only to our class Facebook pages, rather than making a public event that the UMass Twitter feed can pick up and broadcast to the masses.

Noise Complaints:

Amherst College Police must break up parties when residents complain about the noise. However, if you call ahead to Amherst College Police and request their Early Warning System, Campus Police will give you a warning if they receive a noise complaint. If there is a second noise complaint, Campus Police will have to shut your party down. (Note: This only applies to parties in private spaces or those registered under the new policy).

Dancing on the Windowsills (in the socials):

Police have to break up parties where people dance on the windowsills, because drunks dancing on the third story next to a frail window spells disaster. If you are throwing a party in the socials and don’t want your dance parties to be broken up, put something (speakers, potted plant, bookshelf) on your windowsill.

If a party doesn’t get shut down, why does the College Administration deem it “unsuccessful?”

Hard Alcohol:

The College has a ban against hard alcohol at registered parties. They do so because most cases of binge drinking involve hard alcohol. While some students will disagree with the logic behind this policy, the College is not yet willing to budge on this point. At the same time, it is hard for the College to enforce the policy during the party since police will not interfere with a party unless one of these above rules is broken. This infraction generally occurs when police find vodka bottles lying around after the party, as is the case with the photo below (police found these vodka handles in the common room of a registered party around 3 am).

Messy Common Room:

If the common room the party is thrown in is not cleaned up by noon the next day, the party is deemed unsuccessful. Based on what I’ve heard in my Drug and Alcohol meetings, students have done a great job adhering to this stipulation.

I wrote this article because I want to educate the student body and help us realize the stakes involved in breaking the rules of the pilot policy. I think the general perception around campus is that the administration is somewhat incompetent and extremely unfair. I understand why students are sometimes skeptical of the administration’s decisions, but this should NOT be one of those times. Rather than blame the party policy if a registered party is broken up, I think both the party-goers and the party hosts should be held culpable. We should discourage each other from throwing parties that break the rules.  This sort of negative peer pressure directed at people who throw unsafe and irresponsible parties can shift the campus culture and ensure that this party policy lasts. If we cannot comply with the current (very liberal) rules, a more heavy-handed policy will take its place, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.