Committee looks to mitigate risk of celebrations on-and -near campus
Between parties, tailgates and other celebrations, local officials are aiming to keep people safe during parties on campus and throughout East Lansing neighborhoods.
Periodically, organizers from fraternities and bar owners to law enforcement and university officials meet and collaborate to minimize injuries caused by on-campus tailgates, off-campus parties and other celebrations where many people meet and large quantities of alcohol are consumed.
As students flocked to houses to celebrate Fall Welcome and celebrated the beginning of football season, the MSU Celebrations committee brought members from MSU Police and East Lansing Police and Fire Departments to work with management from Sparrow Hospital, among other organizations within the committee to communicate with transparency in order to keep people safe on game day.
“We have strategic plans for just about every event, we have communication plans for every event, but our bottom line is we’re not here to squash the celebration at all,” Dr. Dennis Martell, executive chair of the MSU Celebrations committee and executive director of the Health Promotions Department said. “In fact we talk about how to embrace the celebration and make it better. What we’re here to do is to reduce any possible harm.“
Though the mission for law enforcement during large celebrations is to keep peace, the mission for Martell is to provide information that will help students make decisions when they’re out trying to have a good time.
Even if that means those students are breaking the law.
“We don’t tell people not to drink,” he said. “The law tells you that, but we tell you what most students do to protect themselves.”
Martell says the study of certain events began in 1999 after students rioted near Cedar Village after North Carolina defeated the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament. Martell said that riot became infamous as one of the most destructive to ever take place near MSU.
Quickly after, former MSU president Peter McPherson took action to prevent larger riots that could potentially harm the university’s reputation in the future.
“The genesis of the whole thing was to prevent these destructive events because it's one thing to reduce harm,” committee member Andrew Poole said. “But it’s another thing when you know something has the potential to be not only harmful to the student body, but to their degree when they leave the university because something happens and it becomes a stain on Michigan State.”
Other members of the committee include some of the East Lansing City Council, ASMSU, COGS, MSU athletics and Lansing Community College. Together, the committee ,"looks at the celebratory events, plan ahead, try to anticipate which ones have significant challenges, then plan accordingly to reduce harm.”
MSUPD Captain Doug Monette, also on the committee, thinks as party season begins to ramp up around the university, the key to keeping people safe — especially during football games — is to be patient around those who may be in an unfamiliar setting.
“One of the things I do encourage is for people to remember that this is the first game and there are a lot of new people that have never been to a major university home football game, and with that some of the things they may be used to from their high school football games or wherever they may be from is a little bit different,” Monette said. “One of the things that really come into effect are patience and common sense.”
“We encourage everyone to enjoy themselves and be safe, but use a little moderation with things,” Monette said. “It’s a celebratory time for when people come here for home football games. There’s not a better time to be here on campus.”