Team Positive Presence leaders feel first semester was a success

By Anthony Rentsch

Sïonan Barrett and Stefan Herlitz. (Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)
Sïonan Barrett and Stefan Herlitz. (Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

One semester after the creation of Team Positive Presence, its founders feel as though the program has been a success.

Team Positive Presence is a student-led initiative aimed at promoting a safer environment during University sponsored and student-initiated events. It was Speaker of the Senate Sïonan Barrett and Secretary of University Policy Stefan Herlitz’s response to former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’ recommendation to implement community policing, made in his report after last year’s “Blarney Blowout.”

The group is funded completely by a grant that is shared with Walk This Way, a program that encourages students to be aware of their impact on the residential communities surrounding the Southwest Residential Area.

Team Positive Presence used community policing techniques to facilitate a culture of safe celebrations at large student gatherings this spring, notably the Super Bowl celebrations in the Southwest Concourse and the weekend of “Blarney Blowout.”

During the Super Bowl celebrations, Herlitz said the team’s 30 members split into two groups located in two areas outside of the Southwest tunnel and at the bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue by the end of the game’s third quarter.

When the Super Bowl ended, Herlitz said members interacted with students and told some to turn around, warning them of the freezing temperatures because they weren’t wearing jackets.

During the weekend of “Blarney Blowout,” Herlitz said members went to three locations – Southwest, outside the W.E.B. DuBois Library and near the rotary on North Pleasant Street – and talked to students as they were leaving campus. He said they warned students of the large police presence by the major apartment complexes on North Pleasant Street and reminded them of open container laws.

Later, Herlitz said members moved to the “Bring the Spring!” concert where they handed out water bottles.

“We were very well-liked and received,” Herlitz said. “They like that other students care.”

In addition to its attendance at large student gatherings, Team Positive Presence has been involved in smaller ways around campus on a more day-to-day basis.

According to Herlitz, members go around campus every Wednesday and reward people for random acts of kindness they spot. On Earth Day, for example, members handed out wooden tokens to people seen recycling that were redeemable at the Earth Day Festival on the Goodell lawn.

Herlitz added that Team Positive Presence has also worked to increase general awareness about the program. The group tables in the Campus Center and co-sponsored a barbeque in Southwest Saturday.

Barrett said the group has also attended events at the Stonewall Center and the Student Union to promote its initiative.

“We don’t only want to show up for the big, problematic events,” Barrett said. “We want to show up for everyday events and be around the campus in general because that is the mission of what we do, to be a positive presence in general.”

Moving forward, Barrett said Team Positive Presence wants to extend its reach.

“We are hoping to grow it in numbers but also in the types of events that we go to,” she said.

Herlitz added the group will continue going to “major high-impact weekends that tend to be problem weekends,” as well as tailgates, University of Massachusetts athletic games, large events held by Registered Student Organizations and will even try to be around for move-in week and the fall’s New Students Orientation.

Herlitz said next year’s Walk This Way program will be integrated into Team Positive Presence.

Right now, however, the program is focusing on its leadership transition.

Barrett will be moving into the Student Government Association presidency, while Herlitz is graduating. Herlitz and Barrett said Margaret Moffett, a freshman who has been a part of the program this semester, will take the reins next year.

“We had a lot of freshmen that joined us so we’re hoping they’ll stay with us for the next couple years,” Barrett said.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch. Catherine Ferris contributed to this report.