It comes as no surprise to students at the University of Massachusetts that police officers in the area are cracking down hard during the final weekends of the spring semester. According to the Amherst Police Department (APD), officers will have zero tolerance for underage drinking, oversized gatherings and especially the outdoor “quad parties” that have taken place at the Townhouse condominiums of 50 Meadow Street.
Several students said they understand the concerns of the police and that sometimes, in the summer-like days at the end of the academic year, the parties do get out of hand. However, some residents of the Townhouse condominiums find the increased police presence excessive.
According to an email sent by an Amherst landlord to his tenants, UMass administrators are coordinating their response to off-campus parties with the University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD), APD, landlords and other town officials.
Chad O’Rourke, the owner of Amherst-based Pipeline Properties, sent an email to his student tenants describing a meeting held Monday, April 9 hosted by Dean of Students Enku Gelaye and attended by the dean of academic affairs, the police chiefs of UMPD and APD, 10 Amherst landlords, the town manager and other Amherst and UMass officials.
According to O’Rourke’s email, both state police and UMPD officers may respond to off-campus disturbances through graduation weekend, in addition to the APD. The email says that police will not be giving warnings for noise violations, and that police reports will be forwarded to the dean of students’ office which can issue sanctions for students named in the reports under the Code of Student Conduct.
“[The officials at the meeting] stated that the code of conduct that you agree to as a student at school pertains to all your off campus affairs while you are a student at UMass and a representative of them,” wrote O’Rourke in the email.
The Code states that its regulations “apply to violations of the law or acts of misconduct which occur in other locations [than the Five Colleges] when the behavior distinctly and directly affects the University community.”
According to the email, the dean of students said that seniors who are the subject of police action due to parties may be prevented from walking with their class at graduation or face delays in the granting of their diplomas.
UMPD Interim Chief of Police Patrick Archbald said that the UMPD has a mutual aid agreement with the APD and does respond when called to support APD officers, but does not patrol off campus ordinarily. According to Archbald, it is standard practice for arrests made by UMPD off campus to be reported to UMass administrators; however, the APD is responsible for noise violations and other transgressions of town bylaws.
According to APD Captain of Operations Christopher Pronovost, officers will be deployed in specific areas for the next few weekends due to problems in the past with large-scale parties like Hobart Hoedown and Stoolapalooza. These areas include the Townhouses, Hobart Lane, Main Street, Phillips Street and Fearing Street.
“We’re not trying to spoil anybody’s fun, it’s just – unfortunately the happenings of the previous years have set a bad precedent for everybody else,” said Pronovost.
UMass senior and Townhouse resident Matthew Lamoureux said he has seen definite differences in police behavior between the fall and spring semesters.
“I just left the apartment five minutes ago, and there’s two cops at both entrances sitting there just checking and circling the area, which didn’t happen at the beginning of the year,” said Lamoureux.
In addition to an increased police presence, local residents have registered their discontent with the frequency and volume of student parties. Several families in the area have expressed their concern to Amherst police regarding noisy parties now occurring both day and night as the weather gets warmer.
Pronovost said his officers understand that Amherst is heavily student populated, but that students also need to understand they are not the only ones living here – that families and other residents live in close proximity to student-heavy complexes like Puffton and the Townhouses.
“It is difficult for [residents] sometimes when they have little children and so on who get awakened by this type of thing,” said Pronovost. “And when they look outside and see somebody peeing in the front of their lawn, nobody’s kids want to see that. So it is hard, and I do think students sometimes do forget that.”
Senior Bryan Horton, a fellow Townhouse resident, said that there is no need for police to be surrounding the area when nothing is going on.
“I feel like I have to be on my best behavior, like I can’t just go drink a beer and do whatever I want to do,” he said. “Even though I’m 21, I still feel like I have to be a goody-two-shoes.”
On Saturday, April 14, a quad party was hosted at the Townhouses from early afternoon until approximately 7 p.m. According to Horton, Amherst police came dressed in “riot gear” near the end of the day-drinking event, scouring the area and preparing to arrest revelers who failed to disperse when ordered.
One of Horton’s housemates went outside to grab a few chairs and bring them back into their home. He was nudged by an officer with her baton, forcing him inside, according to Horton.
“They said that if we didn’t go immediately inside we would be arrested and have a bunch of charges against us,” says Horton.
When 21-year-old Horton went back outside to finish his beer, the police apologized for their harsh approach when ordering residents to return to their houses, he said.
“They said if we were outside and there was another big group of people again we would be arrested for it,” he said. “But I said to them that I can’t control how many people come to the quad, it’s not like gated it’s off.”
Up until this point, both Horton and Lamoureux said they felt the police have been very fair all year when it came to breaking up parties. However, during the April 14 event, they felt the police used unnecessary tactics to get students’ attention.
“There were a lot of people, so I understood why they came, but they didn’t need to come in [riot] gear. Like if you see cops, people are going to immediately walk away,” says Horton.
Over the last couple of years, APD has worked to make it known to students their roles in co-existing within the off campus community.
“We understand it’s a college community, we understand students want to have fun. We’re all about that, we’ve all been there ourselves,” said Provonost. “But that being said, there has been a greater outcry from the community over the last couple years, and we need to be responsive of that.”