Forty-five UD students were given citations and referred to UD’s Student Conduct System. Seven non-students were arrested and 17 other non-students were charged through the courts, mostly for underage drinking. Student Government Association leaders will meet on Thursday to discuss a response to the incident. Students can also attend their general meeting on Sunday.
The University of Dayton will consider policy changes that could include scheduling spring break to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day in the wake of a riot last weekend that involved more than 1,000 people, netted several criminal charges and drew police from 12 nearby agencies wearing riot gear.
“All options are on the table” for the comprehensive review that will take place during the coming three to six months with students, faculty and administrators, said Bill Fischer, UD’s vice president for student development.
The sweeping review follows a large “disturbance” that began after 4 a.m. Sunday in the 400 block of Keifaber Street. Police were met by a large crowd throwing glass bottles into the street and some standing on top of cars. Officers were responding to a false fire alarm at a university-owned house. Eleven vehicles, including a police cruiser, were damaged and university President Daniel J. Curran was struck by a police shield and escorted from the scene. A damage estimate was not available.
“It was a very volatile situation,” said Lt. Colonel Robert Chabali, assistant Dayton police chief.
Forty-five students were given citations and referred to UD’s Student Conduct System over the weekend for various reasons, including underage possession of alcohol, not complying with police and disorderly behavior, according to Fischer. “The range of sanctions could be anywhere from a warning to probation to suspension,” he said. Fourteen of those students were also cited into Dayton Municipal Court.
“There is no excuse for this type of behavior,” Fischer said, adding it was “inappropriate, counter to the university’s mission and will not be accepted.”
Student Government Association President Emily Kaylor said students typically begin celebrating at 4 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, but the parties are not usually as large as the one on Keifaber on Sunday. She said the incident is not a reflection of the entire student body. The seven arrests and 17 others who were charged through the courts were non-students, according to UD.
“This was a very serious incident,” Kaylor said. “We are better than this. We, as students, should hold ourselves to high standards and take responsibility for our actions.”
The university will also consider strengthening its policy for students having guests on campus during holidays and will consider banning large gatherings at university-owned houses on future holidays, Fischer said. The university banned unsanctioned parties for the remainder of the day Sunday, and did continue with university-sponsored activities, including cook-outs.
The city of Dayton is currently reviewing its costs for overtime for the about 30 officers who responded to UD’s 911 call for assistance, Chabali said. “We took every asset that we had deployed from every other part of the city to address that problem, hence a citizen could have been in dire need, and it could have caused a delay in response.”
UD also had 30 sworn officers working staggered 12-hour shifts over the weekend, said UD spokeswoman Teri Rizvi. Reports of police using tear gas and rubber bullets are untrue, she said. Police and UD officials said they are not calling it a riot, but a “disturbance.”
Chabali said Dayton police and all other jurisdictions responded in a very professional manner in the way they are trained. “Had they not, I’m not sure that would have happened,” he said. He added that scheduling spring break around St. Patrick’s Day has prevented incidents like this in the past and would do so in the future. Sunday’s incident was the first major incident since UD stopped scheduling spring break around St. Patrick’s Day in 2009 after doing so for four consecutive years.
The event made its way to national media on Sunday and could have an impact on the university’s reputation, said Jason Maloni, a UD alumnus from 1992 and current senior vice president with the public relations firm LEVICK. The news came on the eve of UD hosting universities for the NCAA First Four basketball games.
“The university needs to be mindful that it does not become the poster child for universities who can’t get a handle on the situation,” he said.
Maloni said UD must respond in progressive ways and said banning all unsponsored parties would be “a bit draconian.” He added that the university should promote that the student neighborhood, commonly called The Ghetto, is a draw for students.
Fischer said he believes people will continue to recognize UD for “all the great” things it does.
“I think that people certainly identify the University of Dayton by its fine academic reputation,” he said. “From my perspective, this was a very unusual incident… that we dealt with quickly.”
Celebratory riots have plagued college campuses over the last decade, especially on St. Patrick’s Day or following sporting events, said Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University.
“Rioting has for years been a fad on college campuses around the country and has often been inspired by rioting on another campus,” he said.
“The most important factor is that participants feel invulnerable and anonymous,” he said. “Their individual actions get lost in a sea of screaming and shouting students. In the thinking of rioters, there will be no negative consequences for them.”
In recent years, large-scale student celebrations have led to some serious events.
Palmer Fest, an annual spring student block party at Ohio University, was shut down last year and the area declared a “riot zone” by the town’s mayor following an arson at a student rental house. Some in the crowd threw bottles at police and firefighters last April. It was the third time in four years that the party ended in a fire, said Ohio University police Chief Andrew Powers. Students are planning to hold the unsanctioned block party again this year, Powers said.
“The big problem with these parties is their threat to community safety,” he said. “It may not be possible to stop a house from having a party because of the Constitutional right to assemble. They don’t have the right to have a party that starts to violate the law.”
Miami University’s Green Beer Day, when several thousand people gather at off-campus bars and residences in Oxford to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day before the school’s spring break, has gone off without serious incidents in recent years.
“We try to keep a lid on things and handle small problems before they become big problems,” said Oxford police Sgt. Jon Varley, adding police talk to students about acceptable behavior from the time they arrive on campus for the fall. “I think that pays dividends to us because they realize what the boundaries are and, for the most part, they try to stay in those boundaries.”