It is not uncommon for either the administration or TCU Senate to pursue well-intended policies with negative unintended consequences for the student body. It is rare, however, for these organizations to cooperate, particularly so early in the year. Even rarer is collusion in such an irresponsible way to actually place a large segment of the student body in physical danger. Miraculously, such a confluence occurred at this year’s Fall Ball, where, due to a lack of responsible planning, monitoring and common sense, a safety disaster was narrowly averted thanks to pure chance.
When I arrived at the Gantcher Center on Friday evening, I slowly made my way through a crowd gathered outside the pool entrance. Several members of the TCU Senate were positioned along the steps, and many members of the TUPD were visible. I assumed that the delay was in order to check Tufts IDs at the door. However, as I entered the hallway, I realized that the crowd stretched all the way into the main gym. And as I was pushed into the vestibule by a throng behind me, I realized that I was in the middle of the most unsafe situation I have encountered in my time here at Tufts.
The noise level was cacophonous; people were pushing and falling all over each other. On numerous occasions, I had to brace myself against the walls of the passageway to keep myself from falling. There were many intoxicated students, many freshmen eager to make their way into the event, and many who fell into both categories. Someone kept turning the lights off, leading to periodic screams of panic and agitation. There was no way to know what was going on. Traffic was moving in all directions, without any space to maneuver. Where were the orange-vested Naked Quad Run safety monitors of last year?
All this while, a member of the TUPD stood by and did nothing, except to tell me to relax when I began taking photographs of the crowd and telling people not to push. I reminded them that this was a dry event with only Tufts students in attendance, so there was certainly nothing that exciting to see. The only member of the event staff who I encountered in my forty minutes in the hallway was pushing more than anyone else. When confronted, TCU Senator Andrew Caplan responded, “I’m on event staff,” and continued to push through. As he continued to trample, another student questioned his dangerous, abusive behavior, leading to the response, “Were you here three hours early to set up?” Mr. Caplan continued to push people aside to make room for his ego.
When I finally made it to the front of the line, it was apparent that the cause of the dangerous situation was a complete failure of anyone to plan for efficient entry into the event. Only one TUPD officer was placed at the front of the line to check students’ IDs, and one member of event staff was there to enforce this one-at-a-time debacle by physically corralling students. As I entered the main room, I passed Dean of Students Bruce Reitman, OSA Director Jodie Nealley and other staff members, and ORLL Director Yolanda King, as well as another dozen or so TUPD officers. All were completely oblivious to the dangers a few hundred feet from them.
At Tufts today, it is understood that our police resources are focused on keeping students from being boisterous in the streets of our oh-so-gracious host communities (who we recently gave money to with absolutely no concessions, perhaps a lesson in how to resolve conflict and bargain completely ineffectively). However, this situation was more dangerous than any frat party, and certainly more dangerous than my past experiences in West Hall at the Naked Quad Run. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. But for a student with anxiety or a panic disorder, this situation was lethal. Had there been a fire or other emergency, several hundred students would have been in extreme danger. Intoxicated (and sober) students were extremely hostile and aggressive, and several fights broke out. A lack of TEMS or TUPD recorded emergency does not vindicate the event planners.
This was an easily avoidable disaster. The number of attendees was predetermined, and it should have been obvious to any person with experience in student life when the peak hour of entry would be. Although some na??ve leaders may claim that Fall Ball is designed to be an alcohol-free activity, it actually provides students with another reason to binge drink before (and after) the event. On this, the first full weekend when all of Tuft’s students are present, students have a particular enthusiasm for partying. Many first-year students have no idea what their limits are. Large crowds of intoxicated students require an orderly process, with security and event personnel interspersed throughout. There was no reason why there should have been only one person checking Tufts IDs, particularly since he was not even very effective in doing so.
After the tragedy two years ago at a rock club in Rhode Island, one would think that crowd control and safe entrance procedures would be a priority – a given – for event planners. Yet security was focused on the demon of Tufts University: alcohol. And while unsafe drinking does pose a significant public health risk for the student body, nothing that was done this weekend diminished that risk. That risk was multiplied tenfold, and we only have luck to thank for our near-miss with major tragedy. An event designed “in hopes of bringing the Tufts University Community together” may have done anything but that.
altpullquote: Large crowds of intoxicated students require an orderly process, with security and event personnel interspersed throughout.
altpullquote: … as I was pushed into the vestibule by a throng behind me, I realized that I was in the middle of the most unsafe situation I have encountered in my time here at Tufts.
Adam Pulver is a senior majoring in political science and community health.>