University cancels House Party Weekend

By William M. Fierman

News Editor

In an email to the University community on Aug. 1, President John Bravman announced several new policy changes including the cancellation of House Party Weekend.

An almost century old tradition at the University, House Party is a weekend of events during the spring semester, most hosted by the campus’s Greek organizations. The weekend annually includes exceptionally high rates of hospitalizations due to high-risk drinking as well as a large spike of encounters between students and University Public Safety or local police. During the 2013 House Party Weekend, 15 students were admitted to the hospital.

The decision to cancel House Party Weekend by Bravman came to most members of the University community in the almost 3,000 word email that highlighted Bravman’s growing concerns with student behavior during House Party Weekend over his three years as president.

“I can no longer support an event that tacitly enables–and seemingly encourages–our students and their guests to be at their worst,” Bravman said in the email.

For most of the University’s history, House Party has steadily grown in size. Spending by the Inter-Fraternity Council totaled between $50,000 to $60,000 during the previous few years, though registration fees for students and their guests more than cover that cost. Proceeds are split between an IFC-sponsored educational event and a donation to a charitable organization.

In recent decades, involvement by the University grew with the hope of providing for student health and safety. During last year’s House Party Weekend, the University provided fencing, spotlights, security and safety personnel, on-campus events, and catering service through funding for the Department of Public Safety, the Dean of Students Office, the Campus Activities and Programs (CAP) Center, and the Inter-Fraternity Council.

“I think it got to be that this grew over time and the University tried to step in and be helpful–spotlights, port-o-potties, free food–trying to address issues, first and foremost, of health and safety,” Bravman said.

“They cannot mount House Party Weekend as it’s been [without a University contribution]. We provide logistical support and financial support to non-trivial degrees,” Bravman said in an interview with The Bucknellian. As it existed until last year, House Party was unquestionably “a University-sanctioned event–it’s on the academic calendar,” Bravman said.

“The size and scope of House Party Weekend typically required us to have all of our officers on duty for at least a portion of the weekend. To put that in perspective, that’s about three times the coverage of an average weekend on campus,” Chief of Public Safety Steve Barilar reported in an email to The Bucknellian.

In 2012, the Department of Public Safety spent $15,000 more on staffing on House Party Weekend than the average weekend, though this figure does not include the contributions of salaried employees. The Dean of Students’ office staff spent well over 250 hours planning for and volunteering.

When asked about the possibility of a student-led house party this spring, Barilar said the department has the ability to “adjust and adapt” to new circumstances in order to support the health and safety of students this spring.

Considering the breadth of such involvement, University administration acknowledge that it is difficult to gauge what will become of House Party Weekend without University aid.

Bravman also expressed concern that because of the unusual dynamic created by off-campus housing, the event may simply shift downtown, where University Public Safety officers have no jurisdiction. Past University-organized events and catering during House Party may have had the effect of drawing students onto campus and nearer to the safety measures provided for them.

Bravman claimed that he is not blind to the likelihood that students will most likely organize a House Party of their own during the 2014 spring semester, without the health and safety measures provided for them in the past by the University.

“I expect this to be a very bad spring–I do. And that grieves me. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but we’ll do the best we can,” Bravman said.

Despite these concerns, Bravman was clear that support for House Party Weekend equated to condoning the worst behaviors of students and young alumni during the event, and that such an approach by the University could not continue.

“We’ve sent a message in almost every way that this is almost like suspended reality for a weekend–we’ve said that this is ok,” Bravman said.

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