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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Five students arrested at Pachanga

Published: September 19, 2008
Section: Front Page

At Saturday night’s Pachanga, Waltham police officers arrested and charged one Brandeis student with assault and battery of a police officer while Waltham and Public Safety officers placed four students in protective custody due to excessive intoxication, according to Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan.

The arrested student was charged at a preliminary hearing Monday and the assaulted public safety officer is still recovering from a minor injury sustained to his back. There were no other major incidences inside the actual dance, Callahan said.

Due to behavioral problems at past Pachanga dances, Callahan said the number of security guards and police officers had increased and numbered between 20 to 25 people this year. The security present at Pachanga included five Brandeis students from Student Activities’ Special Assistants team; six Escort services student workers; 11 security guards from the Knight Protection Service, a private security company; and various public safety officers.

Leon Markovitz ’10, president of the International Club, which hosts Pachanga each semester, said the number of police officers surprised him. “I knew that there would be more police than from before, but there was just too many. It was like an army,” he said.

Knowing that doors would close once capacity had been reached, many students arrived unusually early this year, and Markovitz said students started lining up around 10 p.m. Callahan said the doors, which were slated to open at 10:30 p.m., were preemptively opened at 10:15p.m. due to students pushing and shoving in line. Students’ dissatisfaction at having to wait up to an hour outside of Levin Ballroom quickly escalated, and many reacted by shouting “Pachanga Sucks” and pushing harder against each other. ICC coordinator Taneeta Bacon said security called capacity at 11:30 p.m.

Rather than helping them get into Pachanga, students’ pushing actually had the opposite result, Intercultural Center Director Taneeta Bacon said. “[There are] people who think if they push they’ll get in. Instead, it only precipitated the closing of the doors,” she said.

Bacon and ICC Director Monique Gnanaratnam explained that the original plan was to close the doors temporarily in order to estimate whether or not there was room for more people as well as to let other people leave before reopening them; however, students’ behavior prevented this.

“Belligerent, and mobbish behavior will always result in at least the closing of doors, if not in the complete shutting down of an event,” Gnanaratnam said.

Many students claim not to have understood that the doors would be reopened. “We had the impression that [once the doors were closed] nobody else was getting in,” said Steven Sasmor ’10.

However, other students understood the motives behind the officers’ decision to close the door, as well as their intentions to re-open it subsequently, yet still felt that the setup was disorganized. “They closed the door so people would stop pushing. But every time they re-opened the door, the pushing became more severe,” said Hila Landesman ’10.

Accountability for behavioral problems at Pachanga is twofold, Bacon explained, falling upon both students and staff members preparing and those who actually attend the event:

“We know our responsibility…but we need our students to take responsibility as citizens of our community to pay attention to the expectation, to read the flyers, know that we’re going to close at capacity,” Bacon said.

She explained further, “It’s about the safety of our students and our community. Alcohol and assaulting of officers are not tolerated, and it’s going to impact all people and subsequent parties and events.”

According to Markovitz, 600 tickets were sold before the event, and at least 600 more were sold at the door. “Capacity for Levin Ballroom is set at seating, which is 800. So when people stand up, it’s totally up to the discretion of campus security,” said Bacon.

Some students were not only disappointed at not being let in, but also upset because the tickets they had purchased in advance – the proceeds of which were donated to the Red Cross for hurricane relief – proved worthless. Explaining how several people have e-mailed the event coordinators demanding a refund, Markovitz said he takes these requests seriously. “It’s not like they lost their money because it’s money that is being donated, but I will gladly return it,” he said.

Landesman, however, believes that although the money went to charity, that doesn’t justify the disorganized fashion in which it was collected. In an e-mail to Markovitz, Landesman responded by writing, “giving people the reason to donate their money is only half as important as knowing how to collect it.”

She continued, “[It does] not justify having taken students’ money in a disorganized fashion by assuring them it was for a good cause.”

All of the interviewed parties agreed that in the future, tickets should no longer be sold both prior to, and during, the event. “The problem may be fixed easily enough by saying ‘only pre-sales’ or ‘no pre-sales,’” said Bacon.

“Next semester, we are going to sell only a fixed amount of tickets, so people won’t have to plan ahead. Everyone who buys a ticket will be able to get in,” said Markovitz.

Markovitz said that one additional possible solution being discussed is to host subsequent Pachanga dances in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, but that there are concerns regarding the higher cost of that venue as well as whether or not the party would feel empty regardless of how many people were to attend it.

Seeking a balance between pleasing others and running a safe event is often difficult, Markovitz said. “The irony of Pachanga is that you do it to make people happy, but at the end, you get more people [angry] or you gain more enemies.”