Admins, students unite to reduce Halloweekend EMS calls

Concerns this year about students’ safety with regard to alcohol consumption on Halloweekend, one of Vassar’ most notorious events, has prompted the Administration to take extra security precautions. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Concerns this year about students’ safety with regard to alcohol consumption on Halloweekend, one of Vassar’ most notorious events, has prompted the Administration to take extra security precautions. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Concerns this year about students’ safety with regard to alcohol consumption on Halloweekend, one of Vassar’ most notorious events, has prompted the Administration to take extra security precautions. Photo By: Spencer Davis

Halloweekend is a notoriously dangerous weekend on Vassar campus in terms of vandalism of campus property as well as a peak in the use of Vassar’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and this year, all major governing and residential bodies on campus are on alert and attempting to quell the incidents.

The main attraction of the night will be a Villard Room dance presented by the Senior Class Council, the Council of Black Seniors and the Vassar College Sound System from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Vassar Student Association (VSA), Safety and Security, the Dean of the College and various house teams have all pledged time and finances to reducing incidents of bodily and dorm damage synonymous with the holiday.

During last year’s Halloweekend dance, EMS responded to 11 calls, five of which resulted in hospitalization. There were several instances of vandalism and property damage on campus, including a pumpkin thrown inside a residence hall, a tree placed in the Davison multipurpose room and the destruction of five windows in the residence area of Main Building. In 2012, the number of EMS calls was only slightly higher, with 12 EMS incidents, and damage was done in the form of fake blood splatterings in one of the bathrooms in Main.

In order to prepare for the weekend and to prevent damage, the VSA, house teams and Vassar Safety and Security have all met and discussed ways to keep students safe and healthy. The Senior Class Council will sell pizza in the Retreat to students with VCash starting at 1 a.m., and snacks and water will be available to students outside of the dance, in the hopes of providing students with cheap and readily available methods for ensuring students do not drink on an empty stomachs.

The Traditions Committee has also organized an additional event to the Villard Room dance called The Witching Hour, which will be held in the Aula and will include a costume contest, cupcakes and a movie.

This alternate event to larger all-campus dance will provide students with an alternative space for students exclusively wishing to avoid or seek respite from the dance.

In light of previous damage done to his dorm, Main House President Drew Leventhal ’17 highlighted that while all dorms can be affected by Halloweekend destruction, Main’s housing of the dance leaves it more at risk to the financial and residential detriment of its occupants. “My role in this process is really to represent the interests of the people who live in Main. Last year a bunch of things got broken, such as windows and toilets. A pumpkin was smashed in the hallway. The residents of Main pay for all of that, whether they broke it or not,” Leventhal explained.

He continued, “We do not want to pay for those damages, so we are going to try and minimize them. Main House Team is pushing a campaign of respect, awareness, safety and fun. We are going to be putting up some big posters on the third floor,” he explained.

According to VP for Student Life Hannah Matsunaga ’16, the Office of the Dean of the College gave the VSA $1,000, which was ultimately distributed to all dorms in a way proportionally to their populations. At VSA Council meetings this money, to be used entirely at the discretion of individual house teams, has largely been discussed as a means for houses to pay for food for residents. Members of VSA and house team hope that feeding students will help reduce the chances of alcohol-related accidents.

Aside from using the funding for food, some house teams have planned meetings with freshmen to talk about Halloweekend drinking. There house teams will distribute flyers with alcohol information as residents eat to ensure students are knowledgeable about their decisions.

The decision to exclude non-dorm housing in these provisions was a necessary sacrifice made by Council. Matsunaga explained in Council, “With apologies to Ferry, Town Students, TAs and THs [and SoCos], we made the decision that the money would be better spent for residential houses. People in THs, TAs and Ferry have access to kitchens that are their own which makes it easier to have a full stomach on Halloween.” The VSA decided to allocate funds between dorms based on the number of occupants, with funding ranging from $85 to $184.

Associate Director of Security Kim Squillace has also concerted serious efforts to ensuring Safety and Security provides the necessary support to ensure a safe campus on the notoriously rowdy night. Squillace said, “We have discussed where Safety and Security staff and fire watch will be stationed, as well as where Vassar EMS will be stationed. We also discussed protocol and what kinds of things will be permitted inside the dance. NO knapsacks or beverages.”

Aside from articulating banned items, Squillace also advised students to request guest passes one day in advance to avoid the disappointment of waiting in line.

While still concerned with campus safety, Safety and Security is also particularly concerned about student health this Halloweekend. Squillace said, “I hope everyone enjoys the festivities. However, I am always concerned about those who may need medical attention.” She stressed the importance of the mainstays of student health: Vassar EMS, a volunteer-run organization comprised of roughly 60 members, most of whom are New York State certified Emergency Medical Technicians, who will be on-call for the entire weekend.

Despite Halloweekend’s history, organizers are tentatively optimistic that their actions will make students more conscientious. Leventhal explained, “I think the key point here is to be respectful of the space we are in. Halloween is really a lot of fun. It can be, and I want it to be, one of the best nights of the year, but that can all go sour fast if we are not being conscious of ourselves, our actions and our surroundings.”

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