UMass prepares for World Series gatherings with structured celebrations

By Patrick Hoff

In an attempt to prevent a repeat of disorderly gatherings in Southwest Residential Area that have occurred in past years, the University of Massachusetts is hosting a World Series celebration in the Southwest concourse over the next two nights, which will include food, inflatables and other activities.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

“We’re sending a message to the community that this is how we want to celebrate,” said UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.

The event is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. on both Wednesday and Thursday. According to Student Government Association Speaker Sïonan Barrett, there will be five inflatable objects: a mechanical bull, an obstacle course, a structure for “bouncy boxing,” a structure for gladiator jousting and a “Miley Cyrus wrecking ball.” Food from Late Night at Berk will be served and students will be able to tie-dye shirts. Twenty-one SGA senators have volunteered to assist with the celebration.

The memories of past gatherings at the University are ingrained in the minds of students, from “Big Robe”, an uncooperative UMass female who was wearing a bathrobe during the Super Bowl disturbance in 2012, to the student standing atop Berkshire Dining Commons during the same uproar.

“One of the things that has continued to happen is that a small group of students has been attracted to the Southwest concourse … and acted out and brought attention to themselves,” Blaguszewski said. Curiosity from other students then attracts larger crowds to Southwest and the gathering grows.

Blaguszewski said that over the past few years, the number of people involved in these gatherings has decreased, but they still happen.

“Over many years we have employed a variety of strategies and learned lessons on how to contain specific events,” Blaguszewski said. One of the biggest lessons, he said, is to be consistent with the content and tone of the message that the University sends to students and the greater community.

“What if we tried something a little different by saying ‘this space is the community’s’?” He added, “This is a space that is welcoming to the community and not bad behavior.”

“The UMPD wanted to work with the administration to put on an event that would fill the space … in a fun way that wasn’t demeaning or belittling to students,” Barrett said. She added that the SGA got involved in order to give a student perspective.

In the past, Blaguszewski said, the problem has been that there is an empty space in the Southwest concourse outside of Berkshire that creates a “vacuum” for students to fill. By putting food and activities in the space, “there’s this hope that there’s not this empty space that is this vacuum.”

Barrett said that the celebration is meant to change a culture at UMass, and this is the first step. She said that it may not be a perfect solution, but the University is changing the atmosphere to show the community that this is how UMass celebrates, in a positive way.

Blaguszewski said that despite the push for positive celebrations, “the police will be ready should something occur.”

“We’re hoping they don’t have to be deployed in a major way, but we’ll be ready,” he said.

In an email to UMass students, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Enku Gelaye implored students, “Please remember to represent the campus well.”

Gelaye also thanked the SGA and the University Programming Council for “their tireless work in helping to plan these activities.”

“They epitomize excellent representation of the student body, and their leadership has established a positive tone and set of expectations for our community as we enjoy the games with enthusiasm,” Gelaye said.

In her email, Gelaye directs students who are unsure of appropriate celebratory behavior to a webpage devoted to guiding students through being a responsible fan.

Barrett said that although the celebration is taking place in Southwest, this is a campus-wide event and “anyone from any area is welcome to come.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]