SGA responds to Ed Davis report on ‘Blarney Blowout’

By Stuart Foster

(Araz Havan/Daily Collegian)
(Araz Havan/Daily Collegian)

At the last routine Monday meeting of the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association, members read and responded to parts of the Ed Davis report on the 2014 “Blarney Blowout.”

“We just gave our suggestions about what we should do to prevent ‘Blarney,’” said Ryan DiZoglio, a senior political science major and SGA senator.

Jennifer Raichel, a junior environmental science major and chairwoman of the Undergraduate Experience Committee, was a primary author of the official SGA statement regarding “Blarney,” which was read at the meeting.

SGA members were very receptive to Davis’ report, and agreed with the findings, which showed the responsibility for the Blowout as being shared by students, the University, the Amherst Police Department and the UMass Police Department.

“The University’s focus had a big part in the event,” Raichel said, adding the administration sent out an email warning students to not attend “Blarney” prior to the event, which made students more aware of the occurrence.

The way in which violence escalated during the event was also a major focus of the report.

“Because they had such a small number of officers, they chose to put on riot gear before engaging with students. They felt that they had to use chemical weapons,” Raichel said. Only 24 APD officers and four UMPD officers were initially present at the event. “The real issue was just the violence and arrests,” she said.

“We don’t want our students to be involved with damaging property,” DiZoglio said. “Image here is key. We made national news in the worst possible way.”

Ed Davis, former Boston police commissioner, was hired by the University to research the conditions which led to the “Blarney Blowout” in an attempt to establish necessary precautions to avoid a similar situation next year. The SGA is attempting to use the Davis report to help prevent a similar situation from occurring.

“We have sent the letter out to all relevant parties,” Raichel said. “We’re really looking for more action from the University.”

Raichel said she hopes police will better plan for “Blarney” next year, if it does occur, and that they can better control the situation through a more mutual relationship with students.

DiZoglio, who is tasked with creating an event separate from “Blarney,” felt that creating safer alternatives to the Blowout is imperative to the effort of preventing the repetition of such events.

“I think the best way and route is to do an event that is similar, but on campus,” DiZoglio said, focusing on one possible event. The idea, “UMasStock,” was based on the 1969 Woodstock music festival, and would feature local bands.

“I just think this is a better idea,” DiZoglio said, adding that he understood the appeal of “Blarney” to students. “If I can go down to ‘Blarney Blowout’ and see something I never have, I’m going to,” he said.

But DiZoglio feels a more creative, constructive event on campus would draw greater numbers of students and help prevent a crisis off campus.

However, funding for something like “UMasStock” will have to come from the University, and there are still some reservations.

“We do not have the money to do an event like this,” DiZoglio said, adding he realized any alternative event would require significant funding.

For now, however, the SGA is hopeful as a result of the letter they compiled.

“Jen and Kendall have done a lot for it, those girls are amazing for our organization,” DiZoglio said, referring to Raichel and Kendall Tate, Raichel’s cowriter of the official statement. “To put that type of report together is truly amazing.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected]