It was a sunny, warm day on Saturday March 8, and for many students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst it meant that spring was just around the corner. In the annual event called “Blarney Blowout”, thousands of college students, both UMass students and non UMass students gathered in the Townhouses to celebrate. 55 people were arrested at the event along with thousands of dollars in damage to the town of Amherst. A week after the event, Director of Media Relations at UMass Ed Blaguszewski came and spoke to our journalism class to discuss the issue. Here’s a list of some of the topics debated.
Before I share my opinions on what unfolded at Blarney Blowout I was not present for the event. I was working for both WMUA and the Massachusetts Daily Collegian at the men’s lacrosse game. I was doing announcing for the radio and reporting the game for the paper at the same time. I do not have a first hand account of what happened at this event and am going off of research that I have done of the event.
- “This was primarily an off campus event”
This is the most important piece of information in regards to this event. Although it was primarily UMass students who participated in Blarney Blowout, the school itself had limited control of what it could and could not do. Because it took place off campus, this has more impact on the Town of Amherst rather than the University.
- “About 60 percent of those arrested were not UMass students”
It seems as if almost every news source is blasting the UMass students for what took place at Blarney. While I will agree that it was primarily our classmates participating in the event, more than half of who were getting arrested had nothing to do with our school and were just visiting.
- “Social Media blossomed this event”
According to Ed Blaguszewski, he said that that social media was the driving force behind Blarney Blowout. People were communicating where and when to meet for this event via Twitter and Facebook and that was the driving force behind the event. Had it not picked up so much steam on those sites I wonder what the size difference of the event would have been.
- “I support the email that was sent to the students before Blarney Blowout”
That was a direct quote from Blaguszewski himself. Day’s prior to the weekend, UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy sent an email to the entire student body with information about Blarney. It is not at all surprising Blaguszewski agreed with Subbaswamy’s decision considering the two work side-by-side. Also many people are saying that this email only provoked students to attend the event and rebel. I’m saying it was the complete opposite, if you were planning on going; you were going to go regardless of any email sent.
- “Guest Policies were the same on that weekend”
I feel as if this point is getting vastly overlooked. Considering about 60 percent of those arrested were not UMass students, it is a safe guess that many of those were friends that came from other schools and towns. I think it would be foolish if the University didn’t look into ways they can reduce the number of guests that attend and it all starts with the sign-in policy. I am all in favor of bringing down the number of guests you can sign in for events like this.
- “We don’t have a number on the cost of damage”
I did not expect Blaguszewski to have this number with this press conference happening just a few days removed from Blarney. However, he did say that because this was primarily a situation with the town of Amherst and the Amherst police department, it was going to be them who had to deal with the majority of the costs and not the university itself.
- “The event want much larger than it has been in years past”
Now I didn’t know this but according to Blaguszewski, Blarney Blowout used to be a promotion that the local bars would put together and didn’t really involve the whole UMass student body. As times have changed and more students have gotten involved, the stakes have been higher and the amount of punishment has also increased. He said that because of the larger crowd that was the reason behind more arrests.
- “We don’t know how we are going to deal with Blarney Blowout in the future yet”
No surprise that Blaguszewski doesn’t know what the university is going to do to fix this issue in years moving forward. The school is doing the right thing by investigation all reports first then making a decision.
I think in follow up stories various news stories should have gotten the perspective from students who didn’t attend the event and from members of the town that were directly affected from Blarney. Everything that I have seen has just been about the destruction students caused and the student’s involved reactions. The reports have been too one sided and I would like to see the towns reaction because it seems as if UMass is putting the majority of the responsibility on it.