“It’s a prestigious school on a quaint, New England-style campus. But one night two weeks ago, it looked more like a scene from the movie ‘Animal House.’” Few who were actually there would realize that the scene described in this WNYT-Albany report was actually the Jan. 12 “Kamon-I wan-a-leia” beach party at the Log.
“I think that’s totally inaccurate,” said Helen Aitken, associate director of dining services. “One person got her underwear pulled down. It was only one person.”
In the weeks that have followed the beach party at the Log, it has become increasingly evident that the party’s problems were a direct result of a failure by dining services to properly factor in both the size and scope of the party.
Though news accounts of the party have exaggerated the night’s problems – there was not, for example, any physical damage to the Log – there were problems, particularly with regard to overcrowding. The beach party was organized by the Frosh Council and run, like all parties at the Log, by dining services, which assigned three members of its staff for the night. There was one security guard, William Noyes, on duty as well.
The crowd eventually became large enough to overwhelm Noyes, who was shoved out of the way and spat upon. Extra security officers were called in, order was restored and it was determined that the bar would be closed for the remainder of the evening.
Part of the night’s problems can be traced to an understaffing of the event by dining services. “We based our staffing on the number of people who attended the party last year, which was only 100,” said Aitken. The student organizers of last year’s party, however, insist that the 2001 beach party attracted many more students and that dining services should have been prepared.
“Beach Party 2001 was held at Dodd because the Log was closed at the time,” said Drew Newman ’04, one of the organizers of last year’s party and an advisor to Frosh Council this year. “During the party we reached the fire capacity of 428 people. I would estimate that throughout the night between 500 and 600 people attended.”
Scott Ingold, another organizer of last year’s party who has since transferred to a different college, also believes the party reached fire capacity.
In addition, Ellen Rougeau, dining services catering assistant, confirms that last year’s party did in fact attract a large crowd. “I checked with two different people who were at [last year’s] party and they both said it was really busy,” said Rougeau. Rougeau estimated that last year’s party attracted between 200 and 300 people. “Three people running a party is pretty small,” said Rougeau about the beach party. “We’d generally have closer to six people for a party we anticipate being busy.”
Dining Services also criticized Frosh Council for failing to inform them of the events that were planned for the night, particularly a wet t-shirt contest. “We were staffed for what we expected, but not the events that we were not informed of,” said Aitken.
However, according to Emily Steinhagen ’04, a student member of the Log Committee, both Dining Services and Security were informed about the party.
“There was a calendar that definitely went to Dining Services listing all of the Winter Study events. They were also told that it would be a big party similar to last year’s party,” said Steinhagen. “Jean Thorndike, [Director of Campus Safety], also knew about every event planned for the party.”
The events have not only led to policy changes at the Log, but have also attracted the attention of the Williamstown Board of Selectmen. At their Jan. 28 meeting, the Selectmen discussed the events at the Log and were particularly disturbed that the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) had not been notified.
“The first information we received was based on a newspaper article,” said selectman John Merselis, according to The Advocate. “There is no indication police were notified, by either bystanders or college security, although there was ample reason for them to be notified.”
Arthur Parker, chief of the WPD, emphasized that while the WPD should have been notified, the relationship between the College and the town should be cooperative rather than adversarial.
“There is a certain level of cooperation that has to take place between the licensing authority and those who hold a license,” said Parker. “As an agent of the licensing authority, we are the 24-hour contact. Therefore, when an incident occurs, it should be reported to us.
“At the same time, students have to realize that the fact that the College owns [the Log] doesn’t make it any different from Canterbury’s or the Pub. We require 100 percent compliance with the law.”
To Parker, the events on Jan. 12 served as a useful opportunity to discuss some issues of concern with the College, not necessarily requiring a response by the licensing authority. In a Feb. 8 letter to the selectmen, Parker confirmed that “[t]he level of cooperation displayed by this licensee and staff in addressing concerns and compliance has been ideal.”
The College has instituted a number of policy changes at the Log aimed at addressing some of the problems inherent in running a drinking establishment.
These changes include restricting all alcohol consumption to the bar area, establishing separate entrances for over- and under-aged students and a system of wristbands and hand stamps to be used to identify legal drinkers.
There will also be a three drink limit per student at future events.“In my opinion, the steps outlined are a genuine attempt to achieve the level of compliance required by. . .the licensing authority,” said Parker.
The bottom line as far as the College is concerned, however, is that students need to recognize that the Log is no different from any other bar in Williamstown. “If the police get involved in an incident at the Log, not only is the College in deep water, but any students involved are in deep water as well,” said Ouellette.