This year's Spring Weekend reflects progress, thanks to the collaborative efforts of many. But we still have a way to go.
The night of Saturday, April 29, I experienced in person my first Spring Weekend activity - the X Lot party. Back in the 60s, Providence College - my alma mater - had no such event.
Reflecting on that April evening, I take heart in the progress we have made since the problems of two years ago, and congratulate the students, police, administrators and faculty and staff volunteers whose hard work and commitment ensured a relatively peaceful weekend.
Our Student Affairs staff, the Chancellor's Task Force on Community and Civility, and many others have spent many months working to improve the climate and attitude on campus. This year, their hard work and dedication enabled us to make a major step in the right direction.
The student leadership has been in the forefront, working with the administration on the planning and then taking an active role in establishing the appropriate attitude. The Division of Student Affairs under Vicky Triponey's leadership worked tirelessly before and during the weekend to keep everything under control. Our police created an environment of mutual trust with our students, and then successfully folded the state police into that relationship.
On April 29, along with Vice Chancellor Fran Archambault and Assistant Vice Chancellor Dana Wilder, I spent most of the night with Chief Bob Hudd, Major Ron Blicher, and Sgt. Jack Moshier of the UConn Police and Lt. Col. Tim Barry of the Connecticut State Police. Vice Chancellor Vicky Triponey was everywhere, monitoring the concert, the dorms, and the parking lot.
The previous Thursday evening, I had met with the state police leadership and troopers as they prepared for the first night of the weekend. The attitude of the police, both the University and State contingents, was concerned but low key. Tim Barry's initial charge to the assembled troopers was characterized by good humor and firmness and helped set the tone for the weekend. Bob Hudd stressed the need for cooperation among the police forces and said the goal was for the students to have a good time without danger to people or damage to property.
When we first arrived at X-Lot shortly after 11:30 p.m., I was amazed at the magnitude of the gathering. The parking lot was a mass of humanity. Periodically, patrols of four officers would saunter off to mix with the crowd. After an hour or so, our group decided to take a closer look. We found the partygoers laid back, friendly, and having a good time. Several students found it curious that an "old guy" in a suit and tie was wandering about with a handful of uniformed police. (I had attended the Neag School alumni banquet that evening and remained in my traditional garb.)
Volunteer staff and student leaders ambled about, talking with students, many picking up bottles and removing them from the scene. The USG program of providing cups in exchange for bottles and cans helped keep many potentially hazardous objects from the premises.
A minor altercation was quickly and professionally suppressed by the state police, in a manner which preserved the relaxed atmosphere of the night. Student witnesses were impressed with the decisive, but calm, action of the troopers.
The evening ended quietly about 2:45 a.m. Many of the partygoers began to disperse at that time; others departed with some gentle urging by police. When the final statistics were in, arrests were the lowest in several years, despite the largest attendance. More than 80 percent of those arrested were not UConn students.
The weekend demonstrated that the University of Connecticut is making progress toward a greater level of civility and community. We are better able to calmly discuss issues and problems; define limits of acceptable behavior and then enjoy ourselves within those limits.
I am encouraged by the commitment of people from all sectors of the University community to ensure that students can have a good time without harm to people or property. But there is still a long way to go. We must continue to be committed for the long haul to ever greater levels of community and civility.