Saturday, May 11, 2002

Police to monitor parties at UC

School doesn't want violence to become habit

By Kristina Goetz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        University of Cincinnati officials are taking calculated steps to thwart violence like last weekend's off-campus block party in University Heights.

        UC has not had a reputation for violent parties, like other schools such as Ohio University, Kent State and Miami University, where a student was stabbed last month at an off-campus bash.

[photo] A man pleads with Cincinnati police officers after a violent party last week on Stratford Avenue in Clifton.
(Enquirer file photo)
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        UC administrators say they want to keep it that way.

        “I am very concerned about the conduct and misconduct of students both on and off campus,” said Mitchell Livingston, vice president for student affairs and services at UC.

        Police called the disturbance a “mini-riot” that stemmed from a semi-organized gathering for Cinco de Mayo. Police used two “clear out canisters” and fired 15 beanbag rounds to disperse a crowd of several hundred, many of whom threw beer bottles at officers, broke car windows and burned furniture in the street.

        Some residents say the melee happens every year and police should have known how bad it was going to get.

        “The neighborhood always gets crazy when the weather gets warm,” said Alicia Gardner, a 25-year-old graduate student. “And there's Cinco de Stratford (Avenue) every year ... Last year they burned a couch.”

        Jerry M. Lewis, a Kent State University professor who specializes in crowds and sports sociology, calls the emerging phenomenon of violence after college sporting events and parties troubling.

        “It's very worrisome what's happening,” he said. “College students are becoming the biggest source of crowd behavior in our society.”

        Fan violence — whether it's after a win or loss — is becoming increasingly common and destructive. An estimated 5,000 people hit the streets in College Park after Maryland beat Indiana for the NCAA men's basketball tournament in April. Cars were damaged, a Maryland state trooper was hit in the face with a board and firefighters doused more than a dozen fires.

        But, it's what Dr. Lewis calls “convenience riots” — a party at which students can be destructive for a few hours then head back home to study — that are most baffling.

        “They're not making a political statement. It's just sort of Daytona Beach North.”

        In Kent, city council members passed an ordinance that would allow officers to arrest students for failing to disperse.

        And at Ohio State, the 16 students arrested during an April party called Chit-fest were immediately suspended from the school.

        Though UC's Dr. Livingston calls the recent incident on Stratford an anomaly, he isn't taking chances. He sent a letter this week to students who live on the block.

        “The behavior displayed by some of our students ... jeopardized good relations between the university and our community and could, potentially, have endangered the safety of your fellow students and neighbors,” he wrote.

        He called the behavior an affront to the university's values of civility, integrity, justice and responsibility.

        “We've not had the same history as Ohio University, Miami and Ohio State where there were threats to life and property and hundreds of arrests,” Dr. Livingston said.

        “This pales in comparison (but) we are taking it seriously.”

        Tonight as students tap the kegs and crank the music, two Cincinnati police officers will be on overtime to scout underage drinking, loud parties and unruly behavior.

        “They're looking for areas where they've had problems in the past,” said Sgt. David Fink, a police officer in District 5.

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