A University of Connecticut task force charged with deescalating its annual Spring Weekend event released its recommendations Thursday, which included asking students not to attend the events out of respect for two students violently killed from events occurring on or near the Storrs campus in 2010.
The task force was formed just days after UConn junior Jafar Karzoun died from injuries he sustained in a fight following one of the weekend’s unsanctioned parties. It recommended proposing a “voluntary moratorium” to students in light of Karzoun’s death and the death of another student, Jasper Howard, who was killed last year in an incident unrelated to Spring Weekend.
“In recognition of these losses, we recommend that students be asked to not participate in any Spring Weekend activities out of respect for their late classmates,” the report said. “The long term goal of the university is to continually deescalate Spring Weekend – both on and off-campus. A one-year moratorium this April will serve as the foundation of that effort.”
In looking for ways to discourage the event, the group faced some significant challenges. In its report the task force noted that “if there were any realistic, practical way for the university to end Spring Weekend outright, then it would have done so many years ago.”
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be an option. In 1998 the university made the decision to forcefully prevent one of the weekend’s many parties from taking place on state property. That effort resulted in violent confrontations between partygoers and law enforcement and led to injuries and property damage throughout the campus.
Since that time Spring Weekend’s estimated turnout grew from 4,000 to between 10,000 and 15,000 people, the report said. And much to the dismay of university officials, Spring Weekend has become deeply ingrained in the culture and tradition of the school.
The event began sometime in the 1960s as a relatively small gathering of UConn students on the weekend just before the week of final exams for the spring semester. However, in its modern incarnation the weekend represents three days of massive parties, most of which occur at apartment complexes located just off campus.
Throughout the years, the university has attempted a number of methods aimed at downsizing the uncontrollable and frequently destructive impact the event has on the campus and the surrounding communities. An effort was made to provide university-sponsored events in the hopes that students would attend them rather than the unsanctioned parties.
But according to the report, that strategy has been unsuccessful. University-sponsored events have been unable to compete with the off-campus gatherings, the report found. Rather, many students attend both.
“There is little evidence that recent alternative on-campus university programming during Spring Weekend has or will meaningfully reduce the number of people who participate in the off-campus gatherings,” the report said.
Instead, the task force recommended phasing out all university events during the three days, as those events make it difficult to enforce a ban on non-students.
Barring non-students access to Spring Weekend has long been a goal of the university. The event attracts thousands of attendees from throughout the Northeast with no connection to the university.
According to the report, last year’s event was attended by upwards of 6,000 non-students. Those non-students also make up the majority of the arrests and injuries associated with the weekend. Of the 84 people arrested during Spring Weekend 2010, only 14 were UConn students. The man charged with assaulting Karzoun was a non-student in the area for the weekend. It’s also estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of those injured during last year’s event were non-students.
The task force recommended continuing to aggressively weed out non-students during Spring Weekend.
“They represent a threat to the safety of UConn students, the campus and the community,” it said. “We suggest that law enforcement continue and enhance the effective strategies they began in 2010 aimed specifically at preventing non-students from being able to participate in Spring Weekend.”
It also suggested the university prohibit non-students from staying in the campus dormitories, where between 6,000 and 7,000 non-students stayed last April during Spring Weekend.