Massachusetts Daily Collegian

What happened to ‘the Zoo?’

Is the party scene fading?

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(Benjamin Tan/Daily Collegian)

(Benjamin Tan/Daily Collegian)

(Benjamin Tan/Daily Collegian)

By Ana Pietrewicz, Collegian Columnist

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When I told people I would be attending the University of Massachusetts, often times their response was, “That’s a big party school!” The reputation of so-called “Zoomass Slamherst” was built through decades of wild parties, pre-game tailgates and post-sports game chaos. UMass held on to that reputation for a long time, and students still wear the Zoomass name as a badge of pride. However, in recent years there has been a clear attempt by the University to put a damper on certain student festivities. What’s happening to “the Zoo?” Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

In the past, campus festivities have gotten out of hand. After events like Blarney, people are sometimes hospitalized for drunkenness or arrested for disorderly conduct – not to mention the now-infamous post-Super Bowl riot earlier this year, which led to six arrests and a dozen injuries. UMass has tried to control these events the best they can, but the ingrained party culture makes it difficult to contain the student body at times. The students here have a penchant for partying, and the number of students is growing. The current freshman class is one of the largest classes in UMass history, with an approximate total of 5,050 students. Incoming students generally expect “the Zoo” to live up to its reputation, and sometimes it does, but lately it seems like some of the parties haven’t matched up to the hype.

Clearly, the University doesn’t want the reputation of a “party school.” UMass, like any other higher education institution, wants to be taken seriously and regarded as a place of academia. After all, why would parents pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to send their kids off to get wasted? UMass has called for an increased number of officers on campus, including a growing police presence in the Southwest Residential Area, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. They have also made attempts to shut down high-risk events before they happen: in anticipation of the Red Sox World Series win this year, the University brought in extra police reinforcements from surrounding towns like Hadley and Amherst. After the win, police were on the scene in front of Berkshire Dining Commons almost immediately to control the incoming crowds. They allowed the victory gathering to go on for about an hour before swiftly shutting it down and encouraging students to go back to their dorms.

Things have changed at “the Zoo” – events like tailgates are more controlled, and off-campus parties are usually registered with local police. The new, sort-of symbiotic relationship between the police and the students seems to work well. Students are allowed to have their fun, and then campus police step in to control the chaos. UMass is most likely never going to be able to fully shut down every party or gathering on campus, but if they anticipate events and take preemptive action, they may be able to keep things under control. Students who are upset about the increased control by the University should understand UMass wants to protect them –  and in turn, protect themselves. Party culture will continue to thrive, and “the Zoo” is still very much “the Zoo.” It has been that way for decades and will continue to be in the future – so long as there are students here with a will to party.

Ana Pietrewicz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “What happened to ‘the Zoo?’”

  1. amy on November 8th, 2018 1:49 am

    The ‘zoo’ is alive and well; its a main reason people still come here. Otherwise umass is just another state college and in the ranking of state colleges every flagship college in New England except for the University of Main is higher ranking.

    Just look up on youtube of the HUGE parties. The administration wants to pretend to be parents who can control adults and adults who incidentally pay their salaries with tuition and fees and they want to pretend that umass some great ‘prestige’ like it’s Harvard or something so they want to stamp out the ‘zoo’ reputation but it’s alive and well.

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