Housing to close before parade, students question decision
Most resident students will be at home or looking for somewhere to sleep for Parade Day this year, as University administration has announced that on-campus housing will close at 8 p.m. on the Friday before Spring Break.
Vice Provost for Student Formation & Campus Life Anitra McShea, Ph.D., said the decision was reached after several conversations about the dangers of Parade Day, and the clash between The University’s mission and student behavior.
“We have very high values as a university community. So when I say … that the kind of culture I’m referencing that ‘the high-risk behavior completely contradicts who we are as a Jesuit and Catholic university’ – that is a helm for the decision,” McShea said.
Thomas Mannarino, a second year student at The University, disagrees.
“Drinking is on every campus. We are men and women for others, but we are also college students. I do think it’s possible to be both,” Mannarino said.
McShea, who teared up during an interview, said the decision reflects her responsibilities as an educator.
“I’m in the field of higher education and my job is to educate and do all that I can to make sure that students are safe and successful and I’m going to get a little emotional about this, but, I mean, I don’t even think we sleep during that weekend. It’s very emotional for us,” McShea said.
One student said the email students received seemed to express distrust in students.
“I feel like they don’t have much faith in us, assuming that we will make bad decisions,” first-year Gia Salsido said.
McShea said she knows many students are “socially responsible” but also expressed concern about high-risk behaviors, as have local officials.
“Local officials were very concerned. Last year, you know, Mayor Courtright had a very bad experience in the Hills. He provided a very different lens from which to see all of the mayhem that was really going on in the Hills,” McShea said.
City of Scranton Mayor William Courtright’s office released a statement Wednesday about how The University, the city and the county are planning to partner to “curb problem behaviors that surround the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade,” especially in the Hill Section.
“I reached out to the University to ask for help in addressing this challenge as it relates to their students,” he said in a statement.
Brad Troy, interim director of Residence Life, agreed that steps needed to be taken to curtail the risky student behavior associated with Parade Day.
“I recognize that individual students may participate or behave in a way that may not be problematic, but when you look at the scale of everything that occurs … from a sober perspective of people responsible for all students, then it becomes a concern and becomes a challenge,” Troy said.
Troy explained that while the decision is not popular the reasoning behind it is strong.
Students involved with official University functions such as athletic teams or spring break service trips are permitted to stay on campus. Seniors and graduate students registered for Shamrockin’ Eve are permitted to stay on campus until Sunday.
McShea said The University decision allowing seniors to attend Shamrockin’ Eve is based on the event’s roots.
“Shamrockin’ Eve is philanthropic. We are starting that tradition of giving in that students are giving back to the University they love. Alumni are giving money to a scholarship fund. … Seniors have been extended a privilege and we have great expectations about how they respond,” McShea said.
Juniors who are 21 years old and legally allowed to drink have expressed concern over the decision.
“I’m 21 years old. The law says I’m allowed to drink, and the University is blatantly taking away that right,” junior Katherine Flanagan said.
McShea said she understands this complaint.
“I recognize that juniors who are 21 will want to participate, but in the essence of the decision, they will have that privilege when they are seniors the following year,” McShea said.
Flanagan also voiced concerns that the email sent to students not only felt like an attack, but also did not align with The University’s Jesuit ideals.
“This situation should have been handled in a less aggressive way. We were told that our actions on Parade Day go against Jesuit values. Jesuits take education very seriously. I think the University should have harnessed those Jesuit ideas and taken an educational approach,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan continued, “The NCAA holds meetings with student athletes each year to explain the dangers of engaging in risk behaviors associated with drinking. The University should do something like this. Make it mandatory for us to complete Alcohol Edu before we are allowed to stay on campus. Hold a meeting. Educate us.”
McShea said that The University decision to close housing early and subsequently curtail student participation in Parade Day events was a method to “chip away at the culture and minimize the risks.”
Chief Donald Bergmann of The University Police Department expressed his support for the decision to close housing early.
“The decision was made by The University, not the University Police; however I absolutely support the university decision and see it as a defining moment for The University to chip away at the drinking culture,” Bergmann said.
Students intend to find a way to celebrate, however. First year Sarah O’Connell described the rumors she has heard pertaining to the issue.
“I have heard that there are petitions circling around. I think that students will get desperate and end up sleeping anywhere,” O’Connell said.
Rumors have circulated regarding prior last-minute decisions to keep housing open until Sunday. Barbara King, Interim Dean of Students, addressed this.
“I’ve been here for eight years and I can assure you that has never happened before. It’s a rumor and it’s absolutely not true,” she said in an interview last week.
She later explained prior Parade Day decisions.
“In past years we’ve moved it to Sunday at noon. And this year we changed it to Friday at 8; [the academic calendar] just hasn’t been updated yet. We don’t make decisions about Parade Day or spring break until this time of year,” King said Wednesday.
Dr. McShea also said the Friday closing time will be enforced.
“This decision will not change, so make plans accordingly.”
Feb. 20, 2015