Disrespectful’ behavior mars Winter Bash, organizers say

Following rowdy and drunken student behavior at last month’s Winter Bash, Tufts Programming Board spoke out, condemning the student body’s actions at the annual Gantcher Center dance.

“For students to urinate in inappropriate places, verbally and physically harass volunteers, and allow themselves to become intoxicated to the point of inflicting bodily harm is below the standard to which we should hold ourselves as Tufts students,” Programming Board Co-Chairs Vanessa White and Ben Moskowitz, both seniors, wrote last week in an e-mail sent to the student body and printed in the Daily.

Programming Board, an umbrella student organization, is in charge of planning and running the school-wide Winter Bash, held on Jan. 24 this year.

While she was unable to go into details for privacy reasons, White said that she was upset by what she witnessed at the dance.

“The level of intoxication and belligerent, disrespectful behavior was shocking,” she said. “To many of the Programming Board members who were working different stations, it was a nightmare.”

Programming Board member Karen Andres said that many volunteers said that they were distressed by students’ actions.

“People were upset by the way that the event had gone and by the way that Tufts students had acted towards them,” Andres, a sophomore, said. “They felt that it was a lot worse than in previous years. The girls who were working the girls’ bathroom line were the most upset because they were verbally harassed by the girls in line.”

Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) Sgt. Robert McCarthy said that eight students were hospitalized that night with alcohol-related injuries. Six students were brought to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and two to Somerville Hospital.

A spokesperson for Lawrence Memorial Hospital would not comment to confirm that number.

McCarthy noted that there was not a problem with the bar at the dance and that all of the students who were sent to local hospitals were underage. He thought that more students should have been treated.

“It was pretty bad actually,” McCarthy said. “I know a couple [of students] that probably should have gone to the hospital were taken away by their friends when we went to go check on other students.”

The high number of student hospitalizations could be a result of TUPD allowing intoxicated people into the dance, according to White and Andres.

“The police paid no regard to students’ alcohol intoxication levels at all,” White said, adding that many “drunk people” should have not been let in.

 “While I didn’t see it with my two eyes, I know that a lot of our staff complained that [TUPD] was letting in people who were clearly intoxicated,” White said. “What is completely feasible is that a student may take a whole lot of shots right before, be fine when they get in and then once they’re in, they’re just done.”

White added that many people hide their intoxication well and that discriminating at the door can be difficult.

McCarthy said that he was happy with TUPD’s performance in sending intoxicated students away from the dance.

“I think that we did the best under the circumstances,” he said. “A lot of times students would look OK at the door and then unfortunately start drinking some more once they were inside. We found a lot of empty alcohol bottles at the end.”

In their letter to the student body, the Programming Board co-chairs acknowledged that long bathroom lines posed a problem for many students and may have contributed to inappropriate behavior.

“We are aware that there were issues with traffic flow and bathroom access and we are working to fix those problems for the future,” the letter read.

Gantcher’s size played a role, too, White added.

“Unfortunately, Gantcher was not built to accommodate 3,500 people at a dance,” she said. “When people are in that state, it’s very hard for them to understand the idea of waiting in line, as comical as that sounds.”

Assistant Director of Campus Life Jamie Engle said that after the night’s events, Programming Board members are now discussing with several campus representatives how to make next year’s school-wide dances better controlled.

“Members of Programming Board and [the Tufts Community Union] Senate, along with members of the administration, have begun to meet to discuss how we can make this event safer in the future,” Engle said in an e-mail. “There are a number of issues surrounding the event, including student behavior and the constraints of the Gantcher Center, being discussed.”

Possible improvements include a greater volunteer and police presence, better communication between Programming Board and Tufts staff and increased security in the bathrooms.

“Next year, we want to make sure that we are more attentive and have more eyes at the door and on the entire dance in general,” White said.