Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students, police deserve sole credit for peaceful Super Bowl celebration

By Zac Bears

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(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

Students gathered peacefully in Southwest Residential Area after the New England Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl XLIX Sunday night, reversing a decades-long precedent of violent riots following major sporting events involving area teams.

Last week, University of Massachusetts administrators publicized several policies intended to limit the possibility of a large student gathering in Southwest, including a 24-hour ban on guests in all campus dormitories starting at noon Sunday. UMass officials also announced that several watch parties would be scattered around campus, in addition to a larger gathering in the Student Union.

Yet still, just after the Patriots secured victory against the Seattle Seahawks with Malcolm Butler’s interception of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, students began to pour onto the Southwest concourse.

But there are no reports of rampaging hordes of violent UMass students. No pictures of students burning trees, throwing bottles into the crowd or attacking police. No videos of an unruly gathering of youths to plaster across the local news.

The glowing performance of UMass students on Sunday night has nothing to do with policies instituted by the Office of Student Affairs over the past two weeks.

Widespread reports by students indicated that the “campus-wide” ban on dormitory guests was only being enforced in Southwest, which students found unfair. When asked to comment, Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of News and Media Relations, presumed that “everything (was) being enforced appropriately.”

Only about 100 students, less than 0.5 percent of UMass undergraduates, were in attendance at the Student Union watch party around 8:45 p.m., which according to Student Government Association President Vinayak Rao was “a really good event so far.” Team Positive Presence, a group of students organized by a few members of the SGA and University administration, did not facilitate any celebrations in the crowd gathered in Southwest.

But even with the seeming failure of nearly every University policy intended to limit post-Super Bowl celebration, thousands of students celebrated for over an hour without getting violent or facing police declaration of a “riot.”

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

What was different this time? The police did not attempt to violently engage students. At previous gatherings in 2012 and 2013, police made several arrests, fired pepper balls into the crowd and issued a dispersal order. On Sunday, the assembled police held back, allowed students to celebrate peacefully and assisted students who seemed to be in need. As the celebration began to die down, officers reportedly “fist-bumped” students leaving the concourse and told them to “stay safe.”

The officers treated the celebrating students as equals, perhaps because they too felt the glow of victory, but the reason why doesn’t matter. Students gathered in Southwest did not face lines of armored police ordering them to disperse. Instead, they saw a group of officers using megaphones to maintain public safety and ensure that violent offenders did not break the peace.

UMass alumni responded to the celebration on Twitter. Most praised the good behavior of students, but a few noted that police often instigated the violence that transformed previous gatherings into “riots.”

We have two accomplishments to celebrate. Of course, the Patriots will bring home a fourth Lombardi Trophy to New England. But far more importantly, UMass students have confounded the “ZooMass” stereotype. Like people do across the world when local sports teams win championships, students came together to laugh, shout, jump and share in collective revelry. They did so without violence, threats or illegal acts. And they did so in the name of UMass.

As I said in the Daily Hampshire Gazette last Thursday, “Students don’t want to wreck the campus; they just want to jump up and down and scream a bit.”

UMass students proved me right Sunday night, and I’m proud as hell.

Zac Bears is the Opinion & Editorial Editor and can be reached at [email protected]


37 Responses to “Students, police deserve sole credit for peaceful Super Bowl celebration”

  1. TK on February 2nd, 2015 5:05 am

    You idiot. 1. The very UMPD that you praise in this article article was the deciding force behind the residence hall visitation limitations (not the Student Affairs office who you incorrectly credit). 2. The UMPD did not jump in with harsher tactics because they didn’t have to. Unlike in past UMass celebrations, there were no fights breaking out, fires set, students jumping from roof tops.. The only dangerous behavior was re a few students climbing trees. And I guarantee you, the UMPD, Amherst police and State Police do not view UMass students as equals. Never have, never will.

  2. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 10:55 am

    The Office of Student Affairs manages UMPD. UMPD Chief Horvath reports to VC of Student Affairs Gelaye. SACL was the deciding force behind changes to residence hall guest policy.

  3. Jake Evans on February 2nd, 2015 9:20 am

    It seems to me that congratulating folks for not acting like riotous assholes is representative of our culture today. Feeling disappointed in my peers.

  4. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 11:14 am

    “Team Positive Presence, a group of students organized by a few members of the SGA and University administration, did not facilitate any celebrations in the crowd gathered in Southwest.”

    Zac, this is false statement that erases the good work of our nearly thirty Team Positive Presence members. While TPP spent the first half of the game mingling with students at the student union, starting in the third quarter we were stationed in two groups, at the Southwest tunnel and the Mass Ave bus stop, for two hours in the freezing cold.

    Our team performed extremely well, positively engaging every single student walking to Southwest after the game, urging them to have a great, safe night, and at our urging dozens of students turned around and headed home. Students all around appreciated what we were doing, and many were happy to be treated with respect by their fellow students, our TPP members.

    Yes, the students did well this time around, but the students of Team Positive Presence are part of this triumph too, and their efforts ought to be recognized.

  5. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 11:25 am

    My point was solely that Team Positive Presence (1) bought into administrative policy restricting student behavior, and (2) did not participate in or facilitate positive celebrations within the crowd in Southwest, which was confirmed by several reporters (and you just now).

  6. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 11:35 am

    TPP did not restrict student behavior in any way, and did not stop anyone from walking to Southwest. We only began to dissuade people from entering Southwest once the police began using loudspeakers, and even then only did so in an advisory capacity to our fellow students who we wanted to stay safe.

    No, TPP members were not inside the crowd in Southwest, but that in no way means they weren’t facilitating positive celebrations there. Our members personally engaged hundreds of students walking to Southwest in a positive, respectful atmosphere, and the students responded with happiness, high fives, fist bumps, and stated that they appreciated what they were doing.

    Our TPP members literally engaged hundreds of the students present at that gathering with a positive message, a message well received by the students, who were appreciative of their efforts, long before they saw a police presence.

    TPP is a student-run group to facilitate positive, safe, fun celebration, and that’s exactly what they did last night.

  7. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 11:41 am

    Y’all could have done that without creating a distinct, separate student group that tacitly supported administrative policies made without input from most UMass students and on-campus residents.

  8. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 11:56 am

    Zac, Team Positive Presence has nothing to do with the guest policies at all. We weren’t part of the decision process, we weren’t part of the enforcement process, we had zero involvement in those policies- hell, most of our team actually disagreed with the guest policy, as they’re students too. Our sole mission and goal is to facilitate a fun, peaceful, and safe celebratory atmosphere, that’s it, and that’s exactly what our team members did for two hours in the freezing cold last night.

    Our team, comprised completely of students, went through an in-depth active bystander training with scenarios from UMatter on Friday, and then dedicated their Sunday night to helping facilitate a positive celebratory atmosphere. These students deserve praise for their efforts, and they gave up their weekends to help their student community.

    This is exactly the kind of student action you should be lauding Zac. These students contributed to the positive atmosphere of last night’s celebrations, and I can’t for the life of me understand why you are snubbing and ignoring the positive actions of students in an article dedicated to the positive actions of students.

  9. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 12:03 pm

    And I equally don’t understand how you don’t see that TPP’s presence in the same emails as guest policies, as another administrative tool, provided tacit endorsement of at least some students. I’m glad you guys were positive and celebratory. I’m proud of people who did the same without labeling it or pushing it in the press.

  10. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 12:21 pm

    The only email TPP was present in to students was the message from the SGA- we were not present in the email reminding of the guest policy.

    The SGA email was short, and mentioned exactly two things: Team Positive Presence, and the Judicial Advisors program. The only mention of university policy in the email is that, in the event the university takes actions against students for violating policies, the Judicial Advisors program is there to help you out. Even then, the policies mentioned are those against disobeying of dispersal orders, failure to comply, and obstructive behavior- the guest policy is conspicuously absent from the email. TPP was not “in the same email as the guest policies.”

    In regard to the media, we deliberately kept our members away from press as much as possible so that they could focus on our task of talking to students. When the media wanted a statement, an SGA representative- either Speaker Barrett or myself- talked to them.

    I honestly find it rather offensive that you’re outright dismissing the actions of our team members due to your own personal misinterpretation of an email from the SGA. Team Positive Presence did good work, and will continue to do so, with or without your approval.

  11. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 12:26 pm

    That’s not what any reports I saw said, and I’m sorry you’re offended by what you think is a misinterpretation. TPP was presented to me as “community policing” and was certainly boosted by admins and the University for press purposes.

  12. Emily Devenney on February 2nd, 2015 12:35 pm

    It’s also disappointing to know that our SGA would rather subscribe to a ridiculous policy that “most of [the] team actually disagreed with” than pushback and demand a review with ample student input. Your complacency and compliance is sickening.

  13. TC on February 2nd, 2015 12:50 pm

    This is the report in question, an email sent by SGA President Vinayak Rao:

    “During the game and in future community events, the SGA has worked on establishing ‘Team Positive Presence’, which is a student-run, student-staffed program to help facilitate community safety. They will be wearing blue jackets, so if you see them in the DCs or around campus be sure to say hi!”

    The other content of the email was a brief mention of the game itself and some information on the judicial advisers program. They are not called a “community policing” program, they are called a “program to help facilitate community safety.” The administration did not mention TPP in any of their emails regarding the Superbowl.

  14. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 12:52 pm

    Emily, the SGA did not “subscribe” to the policy, Team Positive Presence has a mission that has nothing to do with the policy (and as such didn’t engage with it at all), and there is, in fact, already a review taking place. If you’re interested on sitting in on those meetings, we do have an extra spot, so contact Sionan.

  15. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 1:05 pm

    Were the shirts paid for out of the SATF?

  16. Kris on February 2nd, 2015 1:04 pm

    Wow, looks like Zac is upset because of how wrong he was…

  17. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 1:08 pm

    Zac: Nope, no SGA money was spent, we got a grant, a grant that also funds the effective “Walk This Way” program.

  18. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 1:13 pm

    Students applied for the grant? Or it had already been received/administered by DOSO staff? A student-run initiative–funded and publicized by Whitmore.

  19. TC on February 2nd, 2015 1:21 pm

    Zac, in what way was the program publicized by Whitmore?

  20. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 2:02 pm

    TC: and awaiting Ed Blag’s statement.

    Stefan: They wouldn’t have helped you get the money if your group’s actions didn’t 100% align with administration goals. There would have been no TPP if y’all proposed facilitating a positive gathering in Southwest instead of advising students to turn back at the edges.

    TK: I hate having to explain the difference between a news writer and an opinion columnist. An org chart tells the story that Gelaye could have overruled the decision (in fact UMPD was moved under SACL specifically to allow VC for SACL to have more control over PD decision-making), and every single piece of information sent to students had Gelaye’s name tagged to it, not Horvath’s.

    Also, is Davis really the guy we should be listening to?

  21. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 1:25 pm

    Team Positive Presence is sponsored by UMatter at UMass, which provided training materials, and Speaker Barrett and myself worked with ADS Sally Linowski to propose the program and get the grant. The program is administered by a Grad student we hired specifically to run the program, who will be assisted by student leaders in the program.

    We got money from the university to do something overwhelmingly good and positive, no strings attached, and look forward to continuing it.

  22. TK on February 2nd, 2015 1:49 pm

    An org chart does not tell the story. If you were a good reporter, you would now this and you would now that Chief Horvath was the person who decided on the limited visitation policy, based on recommendations in the Ed Davis report.

    Gelaye supported his decision, but it was his to make.

  23. Stefan Herlitz on February 2nd, 2015 2:16 pm

    Zac, I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, but TPP did in fact facilitate a positive gathering in Southwest. For most of the time we were only telling people to have fun, celebrate safely, have a great night, and stay warm, in addition to giving out high fives and sharing handwarmers. Only when the police started asking people to leave did we start suggesting that non-Southwest residents turn back, and many thanked us for the warning and left.

  24. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 2:20 pm

    “No, TPP members were not inside the crowd in Southwest.”

    You can’t facilitate something if you’re not there.

  25. Noah Bilgrien on February 2nd, 2015 2:24 pm

    “They wouldn’t have helped you get the money if your group’s actions didn’t 100% align with administration goals. There would have been no TPP if y’all proposed facilitating a positive gathering in Southwest instead of advising students to turn back at the edges.”

    Zac, that is a very significant claim that you provide absolutely no evidence for. Honestly, you sound so much like a conspiracy theorist, whose unsupported claims are only backed or contradicted by other unsupported claims, that no one with half a brain is going to take you seriously,

    Stefan, thank you so much for your sacrifice and hard work. There are tons of students that agree with you, your cause, and TPP. I hope that all of the positive reactions you garnered last night stick with you more than the narrow minded and ignorant views of someone who is so deeply set in their own views and agenda that they care not to report on what is actually going on.

    If anyone disagrees with the methods that TPP used, then so be it, but don’t start shouting your absolutist bull shit by denoucing the entire effort just because maybe the got some funding from a source you don’t agree with. (For the record, I have no qualms at all with how this was ran). I fucking proud to say I go to a school where the students are finally attempting to look out for each other, and make this a better community.

  26. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 2:41 pm

    Noah, I’ve spent four years watching administrators ignore students when they disagree with them. It would have been much much harder to get a grant to participate/lead by example in a Southwest event because the administration was actively trying to prevent any event from happening on the concourse.

    Sionan, you all did good work. I’m proud of every student who celebrated peacefully at UMass. But I didn’t hear you or Vinayak come out and denounce the guest policy as a restrictive attack on the rights of residents who pay thousands of dollars to live in those dorms. “Not support(ing) nor agree(ing)” with something is quite different from actively opposing it. As always, I’m glad you were in the room and voicing a student’s opinion, I just wish you (and most SGA officers) would tell the rest of us about it in a more timely manner.

    It is not every single student’s job to, “ask (you).. to involve (them) in the process.” You are our student leaders. Tell us what’s going on in the process. Encourage students to submit opinions to the administration through a more public vehicle. Send a press release to the Collegian explaining how administrators are not listening to the students’ voice. The Wellman Document promises students control over the programs they finance, and last time I checked, we were funding 50% of the University. I don’t think we have 50% of the control.

    I also think we have a fundamental disagreement on the definition of “facilitate.” TPP certainly advised students on positive behaviors to take into the event, which is great. But facilitation would have meant leading students in positive celebration through participation, and that’s not what TPP did Sunday.

  27. Sionan Barrett on February 2nd, 2015 2:24 pm

    I want to echo Stefan in saying that TPP did not “buy into” administrative policy restricting student behavior. Our purpose, mission statement, and actions have never reflected restricting student behavior, as our goal is to spread a positive message about being a good active bystander, celebrating safely, and being a great community member. While TPP has administrative support from a graduate student and the Off Campus Student Center, this program is truly directed by SGA members and now a grad student, from the inception of the idea until this very moment. I would also respectfully disagree that TPP did not contribute to facilitating positive celebrations within the crowd in Southwest as we had hundreds of positive interactions with students while giving them tips on how to celebrate safely with their friends. There were no collegian reporters near any TPP members as we were having those interactions, so I’m confused how your reporters confirmed this.

    Finally the SGA never supported nor agreed with the guest policy that was presented. As one of the SGA reps that attended the meetings, I voiced that exact sentiment along with student testimonials while offering compromises including allowing one or two UMass guests in the dorms, but at the end of the day, as both of you know well, the SGA only has to be consulted about this issues. Before assuming that the SGA agrees with every administrative decision, I would encourage anyone to ask me or any other rep that can point you to the answer you are looking for so we can involve you in the process to the level you would like to see it. I’ve had numerous phone calls and meetings with students about the guest policy and provided these exact testimonies to the administration.

    I’m hoping to create a survey about how students felt about the policy, how it affected them in their specific living areas, if they thought it was successful, and what suggestions that might have in the future. If anyone would like to be involved in creating the survey and helping to distribute it, please contact me! [email protected]

  28. Noah Bilgrien on February 2nd, 2015 2:28 pm

    “You can’t facilitate something if you’re not there.”

    Yes. Yes you can. As Stefan said, they were stationed at the main entrance points to SW, and by communicating with these students and contributing to a positive atmosphere, they can absolutely alter the mindset of those people entering SW. No, they did not police the crowds (even though you seem to both be angry that they didn’t and still accuse them of being “community policing”) but they undeniably had a positive impact on students entering the area. Don’t be so quick to judge.

  29. TK on February 2nd, 2015 3:32 pm

    Zac, I know very well the difference between an opinion editor and a reporter. But when you write opinion pieces that are based on actual facts, it’s important that you act as a reporter to confirm the accuracy of the supposed facts on which you base your opinions.

    Had you ever spoken with Chief Horvath you would know that the idea for limited access to the residence hall came from him.

    Also, funny that on the one hand you’re hugging the org chart, but on the other hand you say that university and state government organizational hierarchy could be ignored by not listening to the Ed Davis report. Ed Davis was brought in by Chancellor Subbaswamy in the wake of the 2014 Blarney Blowout. His recommendations were endorsed not only by Subbaswamy but by UMass Pres Caret and Governor Patrick. The idea that they could easily be ignored is ludicrous.

    Face it, you were angry about the restrictive guest policy, and rightly so. You thought it would incite bad behavior. You thought the administration was wrong to create and enforce such a policy.

    As it turned out, students behaved well, Was this because of, or in spite of, the restrictive guest policy? No one will ever know.

    What’s true is that you were wrong. How about acting like the adult you keep insisting you want to be treated like, and acknowledge that you were wrong?

    Your current stand that blindly blames the administration for anything you don’t like just makes you look like an immature simpleton.

  30. TJ on February 2nd, 2015 3:46 pm

    This is by far the most long-winded and useless discussion ever.

  31. Sionan Barrett on February 2nd, 2015 3:52 pm

    I’m also proud of every student who celebrated safely! I did not post on social medias that we denounced the policy no, but I did denounce it at the meetings I attended and sent SGA reps too and through email threads with the administration’s decision makers. I believe Vinayak might of received the policy decision beforehand, but I was not made aware of the policy until a day or so before the email was to be sent out to students the next morning.

    I also realize it’s not every single student’s job to ask us to involve them in the decisions we are making on behalf of the student body, but I was referring specifically to Emily’s comment in her assumption that we were compliant. I agree we do have a responsibility to update students on the policy in a timely manner, and it’s hard for me to know which outlets are most effective to get well rounded input from the student body.

    I’m going to try to put out a survey to get student feedback and possibly even do some tabling, but it’s difficult to get input on a policy when I’m only given that policy a day or so before it is released. I think that it is honestly going to take more pushing from myself and other SGA reps to demand the information earlier so we can get more input and fully explain the policy and most importantly notify students earlier, but honestly, all of the planning for the Superbowl on the part of the administration was very last minute (as in within two weeks of the event), which I had hoped to avoid.

    If you have suggestions for what works and doesn’t work to get well rounded student input from all areas of campus life, I would honestly love to hear them and try them out (not being sarcastic at all). What we are going now isn’t perfect, but I am hoping to figure out a solution that comes close to it.

  32. Sionan Barrett on February 2nd, 2015 3:59 pm

    Also, while I am a very vocal member of the SGA, my role in the SGA requires me to remain publicly neutral unless I have a motion or resolution to support myself as I am the spokesperson for the senate and the decisions we make as a body. Because of the snow days, we were not able to meet and pass any sort of resolution as a statement against the policy. Vinayak on the other hand can publicly say whatever he pleases as the spokesperson of the SGA without having to wait for a motion or resolution from the senate, so if any denouncements were to be mad, it should have come from him (which I would have liked to see myself)

  33. Zac Bears on February 2nd, 2015 5:40 pm

    Sionan, thanks for taking this a little more seriously than the rest of the respondents. I’d love to talk to you about more effective ways we can get information out to students.

    TK, my central assertion was not that the policy would inherently cause violent “riots.” I said simply that the guest policy and other behavior restrictions would not prevent students from gathering in Southwest. Students gathered in Southwest. Luckily, UMPD took Davis Report recommendations to heart and did not deploy mounted units decked out in riot gear, nor did the police confront students by forming a line. Police behavior was the difference last night. By showing restraint, being outfitted for a college campus (and not a war zone) and having positive interactions with students, they prevented the instigation of violence. If the police had behaved as they have historically, the outcome would likely have been quite different.

  34. Sionan Barrett on February 2nd, 2015 5:47 pm

    Zac, can you email me some times that work for you to meet this week? [email protected]

  35. MG8185 on February 2nd, 2015 6:24 pm

    Thank you Team Positive Presence, the SGA and the administration for all your hard work in reigning in the drunken pathology that follows sports events. It an epidemic at most large schools and a visual arms race on YouTube. Let’s stop buying into it.

  36. Frank Underwood on February 3rd, 2015 8:46 am

    I also want to point out what happened the last time students were invited to celebrate safely in Southwest by their peers and the university, (Fall 2013). Within seconds of the Red Sox winning the world series, students went nuts. They began climbing/breaking down trees, a student threw a water bottle at the screen which caused it to split it half, students jump on and destroyed the various pieces of equipment that were there to facilitate fun and safe celebratory moments, and in the end, students left food, bottles, waste, etc, everywhere throughout the concourse, forcing the SGA and other student volunteers to clean it all up. And when the red sox one, police officers were not in riot gear until they had to be when the crowd go very wild and unruly. So yes, while you are right, TPP was on the outside of the area where the event was taking place, they were still speaking directly with those that were going to be involved.

    I also want to point out that the concept of TPP is something that people have been working on for a long time and not just because of the Super Bowl. It is an adaptation of Minute Marshalls, which originally was intended to be a group of students that would be present on (or off campus) to engage with students about safe celebratory practices. Therefore, this group was not deployed by the Admin or because it supported the admin, this was a group of students that came together a while ago because while they disagreed with the policies, they agreed that something needed to change and that students needed to start taking responsibility for themselves, their choices, and how they reflect the rest of us who don’t go to Southwest or party but instead stay in practically 20 hours a day trying to earn my mechanical engineering degree.

    And Zac, yes you are right, students pay a ridiculous amount of money to live in the residence halls. But they also sign the Residence Hall Contract which stipulates that the university has the right to change the guest policy in the event of something like this. Students sign that agreement every year after (hopefully) reading it and knowing what they signed. So, I understand what you were trying to say. But their rights were not violated when the university did something it told students (from the beginning and through the contract) that they would do anyway.

    Let me also point out that it was approximately 5 degrees outside. I am sure that the crowds were not as big as it could have been due to this factor.

  37. MG8185 on February 4th, 2015 7:42 pm

    Whether it was five degrees or fifty degrees, steps were taken by TPP and UMA that made a difference. Most students don’t want their hard earned degree debased. They want their time spent here to matter. Go Minutemen!

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