What is the first thing you think of when you think of college? Sororities and fraternities? Football and marching band? Students working towards a career? Those are all good observations, but there is one thought that is very prevalent in certain universities.
College parties are some of the biggest activities on campuses. Students can be civil by gathering a few friends to have some drinks at a get together. Or some might visit a bar and go home after with the help of a designated driver. But there are some that take things a step too far.
When alcohol takes control of certain events, some people can lose control. They are too loud, the bottles and cans get littered in the front yard, and things might get too out of hand leading police to intervene and giving out citations.
This is an issue that many campuses must deal with. It can give the university a bad reputation and might scare people from attending college themselves. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater prides itself in keeping a fun and lively atmosphere at parties, but the school still has its fair share of parties that get too wild. The city and university enforce many laws and ordinances, but there is still much more room to improve.
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has enacted several procedures that they follow when college parties get out of hand. These guidelines help maintain a positive living experience on campus and in the city while helping balance the fun of parties with peace within different age groups. Elizabeth Watson, the Dean of Students here on campus, weighed in on what the campus is doing to prevent so called, “bad parties.”
“We give out citations to students who disrupt the peace on campus and the city, and landlords deal out consequences when city codes are violated,” says Watson. “It’s hard to deal with it when it’s off campus. We collaborate with the city, police, and landlords to make sure all laws are followed.”
Not only are there police officers available to assist anyone who might be in a tricky situation at a wild party, but the university has resources to help individuals as well. University Health and Counselling Services have people available that help educate students about the signs of intoxication and are open to hear any concerns about any health or alcohol related needs.
“It is important that we educate students and hold them responsible in social situations like this.” Watson says. The University offers workshops and programs to students who violate alcohol related policies. According to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater website, the first violation is a $35 course, while the second is a $100 course. After the fourth violation, the student will be suspended from school for up to two years.
CSO’s, also known as Campus Safety Officers, are also prevalent on and near campus areas. CSO’s are students that are at least half-time students that work with police officers to maintain a positive campus atmosphere. According to Whitewater’s website, “A CSO will be alert and attentive on patrol and communicate with police officers as needed to promote a safe and secure environment.”
Many of these parties happen on the edge of campus, where there are several houses up for rent during the academic year. Areas such as Main St. and Tratt St. have many houses for rent, and with those streets getting a large volume of traffic, it is easy to see many large parties, especially during events such as, “Spring Splash,” which is an event at Whitewater that includes large masses gathering at houses and consuming a lot of alcohol during springtime.
With all these houses holding parties, some of them might be a bit too far from campus. This has led many students who live on campus to walk home intoxicated if they don’t have someone to take them back. Apartments such as the University Inn and Cambridge Apartments are examples of residences near campus that allow students to be as close as possible to dorms and university buildings. But for far-away parties, many students might leave drunk, which could lead to a dangerous situation, especially if it is late at night.
“I believe that the host of the party should help people leave when things are getting too out of hand.” Watson adds. “Warhawks don’t let Warhawks get into dangerous situations.”
If a student does not feel well enough to walk home after a party, there are many strategies students take to sober up fast. Alcorehab.org states that, “The quickest way to sober up is to start helping the body recover by providing nutrition, hydration and rest.”
As many have experienced, alcohol can do wild things to the brain, and students developed several tactics to sober up quickly to be safe. An article from Northwestern Medicine titled, “How Alcohol Impacts the Brain,” states that your body goes through Euphoria when you consume a certain amount of alcohol. You become more relaxed, but your reasoning and judgement lower. This leads people to have more enjoyment at the party but causes them to not be alert to serious situations that might occur.
If a student knows the host of someone else at the party, students stay at the party after it’s over, sometimes sleeping or taking extra time to make sure they can reach home safely.
“The most important thing is to watch out for your homies and have your homies watch out for you.” says Noah Parulski, a senior at Whitewater. “And make sure to have pretzels or other snacks on hand.”
Many parties have snacks such as pretzels, chips, and crackers. Many people use carbohydrates and water to help their body recover right after the party and even the day after. However, some might be rushed out of a party suddenly, causing them to walk the streets alone, not in the right state of mind.
There are many solutions to prevent a student from walking home alone. This includes calling a friend to pick them up, going to the party with a friend in the first place, and even calling Uber or Lyft. There are even buses near campuses that help students get back home safely.
But what is considered more troublesome is driving home drunk after a party. Drunk driving has caused many preventable deaths in the United States. According to the United States Department of Transportation, 28 people die from drunk-driving crashes per day, about one every 52 minutes.
Police have always been aware of spotting drunk drivers and making sure they don’t commit repeat offenses. A panel held by North Central Texas College in November of 2020 talked about the negative impacts of alcohol.
Officer Calvin R. Richard stated, “If you are above the age of 21 or older, a court might require you to attend an alcohol education program, a driver’s license suspension up to 2 years along with a $100 fee, and even probation.”
Another problem is minors attending these parties and consuming alcohol as well, and they receive several fines and suspensions as well.
“Minors who attempt to buy, possess, or consume alcohol, along with public intoxication, you will receive a 30-day suspension, and the suspension will go up after every offense.” Richard adds. Most of the United States has strict laws related to drunk driving and minors possessing alcohol, as they put a significant importance on preventing tragedies related to consuming too much alcohol.
Along with many drunk people roaming the streets after these parties, another thing that comes with these kinds of parties is the noise pollution. The loud music and the yelling of drunk party guests can cause a disturbance in nearby neighborhoods. Usually these involve a clash between age groups. Elderly people trying to get some sleep or new parents trying to put the baby to bed are just a few kinds of people that don’t like to hear this kind of noise.
The City of Whitewater and the University work together to make sure laws and regulations are followed accordingly. Cameron Clapper, the Whitewater City Manager, constantly deals with issues like this, especially since the city of Whitewater only has a population of 1,399 people and contains a college campus.
“One thing we encourage when it comes to these parties is to keep some of it outside,” Watson adds. “And when things are getting too wild, you can always call the police. You should always hold yourself and others accountable.” Spreading out the party leads to events being less compact in case a fire breaking out.
The number of people inside a house at once is also dangerous in the fact that fire safety guidelines can be in danger. When many people are crammed into a house and a fire starts, many people can die due to the amount of people trying to escape through a limited number of doors, and when people are intoxicated, escape can be even harder.
The number of people that attend the party not only causes a lot of noise but can lead to other complications. The scattered beer bottles and cans across the yard contribute to a negative environmental impact as the trash can scatter onto other properties. And when there are so many people packed into a house, it is required by law to have barricades and portable toilets on the property, as the city considers the event large enough to merit their use.
“When property owners see an abundance of waste in their front yard, they can cite that. But when the renter does not pick it up within a certain time, they can hand out a citation and fine them.” Clapper exclaims. Many people know of the “trashy” appearance of some parts of college campuses and leads to a worse looking neighborhood.
Unless the residents pick the trash up and put it in recyclable containers, it will continue to sit in grass and bushes and harm the environment. The University of Southampton did a study to see which drink packaging was the most harmful to the environment. They concluded that glass bottles are the most harmful for the earth, as they are heavy and take much more energy to produce.
Many party goers tend to drink out of glass bottles, which tend to not always be thrown away, but plastic water bottles are also drunk for attendees who want to sober up quickly. Both kinds of these bottles clutter up streets and are not biodegradable enough to just leave and forget about.
But a big concern with out-of-control college parties is police intervention. There have been countless times when officers needed to break up a party and deal with drunk people who are not cooperating with their demands. This can create high tension situations, where police can get aggressive towards students who are intoxicated and cannot comprehend the importance of maintaining city guidelines.
To maintain peace in the community, police follow guidelines and will disrupt a party to make sure students don’t do harm to themselves or others.
“We have a code of ordinances that we follow that restricts how loud a party can be. People can call in, and police officers can intervene and tell everyone to calm down. If noise continues, they can just break up the party altogether.” Clapper states.
Ordinances that police enforce include regulating the number of cars on the property, restrictions on noise level, and how many people can be in one building at a time. People can call in if they are uncomfortable with what is going on, and the police will take care of what is needed and will deal with all the fines/consequences that come with the situation.
However, with all the police intervention with parties that go awry, there are some resources the police department offer to help students that might be struggling with a negative reaction to the party atmosphere.
There is a worry that a partygoer might have a negative reaction to being drunk and could have a panic attack or a crisis. The police department has added a new position called the “Community Crisis Liaison,” which is a satellite crisis worker who works for the Whitewater Police Department.
This position is looking to be filled, as sometimes there are instances where a person needs extra attention regarding mental issues or other related crises.
In a Whitewater Common Council meeting on March 15, 2022, officer Dan Meyer spoke about this new position.
“The position is responsible for calls that have a crisis element to them, like suicidal thoughts or mental health issues.” Meyer said.
The position is supervised and funded by Walworth County. This position is looking to help anyone with mental issues and is another way that police can intervene by helping a person who is currently experiencing a crisis.
The Community Crisis Liaison is one of the many resources the city is planning on bolstering within its police department. Along with this, the city has many more tactics to combat the negative actions involved with wild college parties.
Cameron Clapper has thought of several ideas that can help improve the city to make sure many of these parties happen closer towards campus, since the parties would be easier to manage if they were more closely condensed together.
“Whitewater has not developed enough multi-residence buildings in the area,” Clapper states. “If we build more of these residences, people can be closer to campus, and encourage more civil behavior since the residents would be closer to other people.”
But as of right now, there are still several apartment complexes near the campus, but when the parties occur several miles from the campus, they can be hard to manage.
Regardless of what the future holds, the city still holds a high standard in following ordinances and continues to hold individuals accountable to maintain tranquility in the community while allowing people to enjoy time with friends in a respectful manner.
Currently, the city has helped raise funds for the police department to allow them to serve the city in even better ways. Premier Bank held a fundraiser to support the local K9 unit in September 2021. These dogs help assist officers in sniffing for drugs or other illegal substances, some of which might be at a college party.
The city was also accepting applications for full-time dispatchers in October of last year, stated by Clapper in a council meeting on September 21, 2021.
Another thing that the city is working on is the amendment of an ordinance regarding the storage of vehicles. In the previously mentioned meeting, Clapper made a statement regarding the storage of vehicles in a property owner’s yard.
“What we are looking at is making modifications that streamline the process of permitting individuals to store vehicles. That permit would go through neighborhood services.” Clapper states. The amendment states that police will no longer be required to deal with these permits, but they can intervene if there are any problems regarding the number of vehicles parked within a certain zone.
The ordinance states that vehicles stored in a yard must be in the back lot, on a solid surface, must comply with zoning ordinances, and must be covered with a tarp or cover.
Lynn Binnie spoke up during this discussion. He wanted to make sure permits were put in place. He wanted to make sure people were allowed to store their cars with the use of a permit.
“I think you must have a permit if you have a one-year stipulation,” says Binnie.
Although many people don’t store their cars at a partygoer’s house too often, the city puts an importance on making sure the number of cars parked on streets is regulated. With the considerable number of cars that might fill up a street during a party, that can cause problems for traffic and the city wants to make sure the cars are out of sight of the road if on property for an extended period.
The city and university combine to bring many efforts in controlling the party atmosphere in the city, and students find themselves responsible for dictating the party atmosphere as well.
“Being aware of living areas and residences is very important,” Clapper states. “It is a good idea to have a solid relationship with your neighbors and landlords to ensure safe situations.”
Students themselves are encouraged to be responsible drinkers and step up when something is not going right.
“Bystander intervention is key,” Watson adds. “When you see something gone wrong at a party, even when you’re not involved, step in to make sure things don’t get out of hand.”
Other strategies students follow include helping people leave when it’s time to go and encouraging the host to make things as comfortable as possible, as strong leadership goes a long way in situations like this.
“You must plan for the worst,” Clapper states. “Watch out for the number of people, the space between them, and the bathroom situation. If it does not look safe, feel free to leave.”
Wild college parties are inevitable. They might go on until the end of time. Many students take responsibility for their actions to promote fun while being safe. But it’s up to everyone involved to maintain a well-functioning community whilst having fun.