Safety Concerns During Hallowgreens

Hallowgreens 2016 NightHawks. Photo courtesy of Vera Damanka.

Content Warning– this article discusses acts of violence and sexual assault. 

One of the most well-known traditions on St. Mary’s campus are the Greens events. For those new to campus, these are annual events that take place on the Townhouse Greens like Mardigreens, Hallowgreens, and sometimes less formally organized events like Nudigreens. These are student traditions that hold both positive and negative consequences.

On the positive side, Greens events like Hallowgreens and Mardigreens are a joyous time for the St. Mary’s campus community to come together and have fun with their fellow students. For Hallowgreens in particular, students can dress up in various Halloween costumes and party all night long. It’s a time for celebration and “good ol’ fashioned fun”.

However, there are times when the phrase “good ol’ fashioned fun” can begin to lose its meaning. Particularly when the safety of the student body is put in jeopardy. As always, negative consequences do in fact emerge during events like Hallowgreens, which can leave a wake of concerns over safety during and after the event takes place.

Last year’s Hallowgreens is a prime example of what types of unfortunate events can take place. Listed below are items from Public Safety’s log of 2015’s Hallowgreens:

  • Alcohol violation – semi-alert student escorted back to Dorchester hall.
  • CDS violation- alarm going off in DPC.
  • Suspicious person. 4 black males chased a group of females from DD to QA.
  • Foot pursuit. Suspect escorted off campus.
  • Robbery – Non student robbed of marijuana
  • Assist other agency – Robbery suspect tased by SMCSO
  • Reported sexual assault in progress in Caroline Hall.
  • Student struck by bottle in the head. Ambulance transport.
  • Drunk and disorderly non student. Removed from campus.
  • 2nd degree assault/Sexual assault in Pub
  • Non student intoxicated walking around QA
  • Intoxicated male laying on ground near DPC.
  • Intoxicated female. Ambulance.
  • Fight in progress
  • Sexual assault reported
  • Assault – non student struck two students who entered their townhouse uninvited.
  • Suspicious person – 2 males following a female from DPC towards LQ
  • CDS violation
  • Fight reported
  • Unconscious female alcohol related ambulance
  • Fight reported at Caroline
  • Lost non student cannot contact student host
  • 2 vehicles reported with slashed tires

Of course, incidents like these generate worry, and for many demand a revisit to the campus community’s top priorities, due to the occurrence of robberies, assaults, and other criminal events.

“Safety for students and staff is paramount,” said Dean of Students Leonard Brown. “When you have a large gathering of people, there are tried and true ways to manage the situation to ensure the safety of all involved. This student tradition is not a college event so those measures are not in place. The safety, of both students, guests, and all the staff are my concern.”

Additionally, it must be made clear that events such as Hallowgreens reside under the category of student traditions and are not officially sponsored or supported by the college. This is important to realize as the college cannot implement the appropriate safety precautions it would typically put in place at a college sponsored event. Furthermore, though events like Hallowgreens are not college sponsored, there are security expenditures the college must pay for. This includes the use of deputies from the St. Mary’s County Police Department.

The Director of Public Safety Tressa Setlak is supportive of the idea of making events like Hallowgreens a college sponsored event. She states that Public Safety “would be able to create a more controlled venue and controlled entry/exit.” Reasoning for this is in part owed to the problems brought on by non-students attending the event.

She also states that Public Safety would be better able to “control alcohol consumption” and how “the event could be more directed toward an organized activity rather than random groups drinking.” She cites that organized activities like these include activities like a dance or costume show.

Additionally, Director Setlak states that Public Safety has limited time to prepare for these events as they have to “wait until students decide [on a date]”  which then limits their time to prepare.

Members of the faculty have an understanding that these events are for the enjoyment of the students, but they cannot turn a blind eye to the potential dangers that could take place. “It’s a fun event for the students themselves and seeing these types of incidents undermines that,” said Director of Title IX Compliance and Training/Title IX Coordination Michael Dunn.

Dean Brown, Director Setlak and Coordinator Dunn have worked with the St. Mary’s Community to make things as safe as possible for students. Safety, they reiterate, is their number one priority.

Michael Dunn asks students to ask themselves two very important questions, “Is it worth it for people to experience assaults and robberies for a good time? Is that the price we pay for a good time on campus?”

In times of distress please do not hesitate to call Public Safety at 240-895-4911 or SMART at 304-904-2015.

Note from the News Editor: At time of printing, Hallowgreens 2016 has taken place. Both Public Safety and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department were a big presence at Saturday night’s Hallowgreens, as were the NightHawks, coordinated by Public Safety Advisory Council Leader, Vera Damanka, and Student-Trustee-in-Training Sharon Phillips, as well as a number of other student body institutions. The NightHawks are student volunteers who hand out water and crackers to students on the Greens, and escort people home who are done for the night. The combined effort of Public Safety, the Sheriff’s Department, Residence Life, and the NightHawks works towards addressing the safety concerns of Hallowgreens every year.