Party Smart program experiences success in first semester

By Jami Dunn

(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)
(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

Party Smart, a pilot program that encourages off-campus students at the University of Massachusetts to register their get-togethers with the Amherst Police Department, was proven to be successful in its first semester.

The purpose of the program, which was launched in a joint effort between the University and APD, in conjunction with Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking (CCC), is to reduce neighborhood noise complaints and increase student responsibility at social gatherings.

“Since its launch in September 2016, the program has registered 169 parties, with 13 receiving a courtesy phone call. No follow-up responses were required by police,” according to a press release from UMass.

To register with Party Smart, students must provide party and contact information no later than 4:00 p.m. on Thursdays in the Off Campus Student Center in room 314 of the Student Union. The applicant’s name, address and phone number will then be sent to the Amherst Police Department Communication Center.

Costin Thampikutty, a graduate assistant at the Off Campus Student Center and education major, said they particularly noticed a spike in the number of registered parties last semester during the week of Halloween.

“Up until then, there were maybe, like, 10 parties per week,” Thampikutty said. “On the Thursday before Halloween, there was a line of people trying to get their Halloween parties in.”

“We were aiming for 20 parties but there ended up being literally around 50,” Thampikutty added. “Halloween was pretty crazy.”

Some off-campus students, like Kimberly Pacenka, a senior hospitality and tourism management major, feels somewhat resistant about registering their social gatherings through Party Smart.

“I’ve heard of it but I’d be extremely hesitant to use it because I’d be paranoid that they wouldn’t actually use it the way that they claim to,” Pacenka said. “I’d just be really nervous that they would pay extra close attention to my area and that the police would be watching my house.”

Pacenka said she would definitely change her behavior if she were at an event registered through Party Smart.

“I wouldn’t want to drink very much in case something did go wrong and I’d be really stressed about other people being too drunk or causing trouble,” Pacenka said.

However, other off-campus students felt more positive about the program.

Senior communications major, Megan McHugh, said she has heard of the program but was unsure if she herself has been at a registered party before.

“I don’t think I’ve been to a registered party but it would honestly make me feel more comfortable if it were,” McHugh said. “I’d feel way better knowing that the Amherst police already know about it because then I wouldn’t feel like I’m risking getting into trouble.”

“If I were going to have a party, I would definitely register it,” McHugh added.

Other students expressed similar sentiments. Alyson Durlin, a junior political science and journalism double major at UMass, has heard of Party Smart but hasn’t registered a party through it.

“We don’t typically throw parties at my place because we’ve gotten a knock for being too loud before, and there were literally only five of us there that time,” Durlin said. “But if we did have parties, we probably would take advantage of it.”

Durlin said that her behavior probably wouldn’t change too much if she knew she were at a registered party, but she does think that the program is a good idea.

“People are obviously going to have parties no matter what, so it seems like it is a good way to make sure you’re monitoring your noise level and can avoid getting into trouble,” Durlin said.

After seeing the initial success that Party Smart experienced, Thampikutty said for this upcoming semester, Off Campus Student Services will be trying to increase the visibility of the program.

“This semester, one of my tasks is to make a video about it,” Thampikutty said. “We want to incorporate the police in it and really just push the visibility of Party Smart so that more people recognize that it is a real thing.”

Jami Dunn can be reached at [email protected]