Homecoming weekend incidents and arrests decrease

by Autumn Dinh | 10/13/17 2:15am

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The College installed a fence around the Homecoming bonfire after about 50 students touched the fire in 2016.

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth

The total number of security reports and arrests during this year’s Homecoming weekend decreased significantly from 2016, which both interim director of Safety and Security Keysi Montás and Hanover Police captain Mark Bodanza attributed to increased security measures during the bonfire, including a fence around the fire itself.

From Thursday through Sunday, Safety and Security responded to 30 incidents, down from 42 last year and 66 in 2015. Five of these reports occurred on Thursday, 11 on Friday, 11 on Saturday and three on Sunday.

Fifteen of these incidents were alcohol-related, and of these, seven students were transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for treatment.

Bodanza said there were six total arrests over the weekend, a decrease from 11 in 2016. He said that four of the six arrests were for disorderly conduct at the bonfire and the remaining two were for alcohol-related incidents.

Montás said that among the four students arrested at the bonfire, two were charged with resisting arrest. Bodanza added that one of these four students was also charged with underage drinking.

This year, a chainlink fence was erected 60 feet from the center of the fire, which was defined as the collapse zone. Security personnel stood around the chainlink fence inside a low, plastic water-filled barrier. There was also an outer orange plastic safety fence to separate the students running around the fire from onlookers.

“It was really dangerous to be inside the collapse zone,” Montás said. “If the fire fell down, it would be a certain death.”

Not all students attempting to touch the fire got arrested, Montás said. According to Montás, there were seven attempts to enter the prohibited zone. Four students attempted to cross the outer barrier, and the other three managed to bridge the fence. Four of these students were arrested, while the other three managed to get away, Montás said.

“Overall, it was significantly safer than last year,” Bodanza said.

According to Montás, increasing security measures at this year’s bonfire was a joint decision made by the College and the town of Hanover as a response to the unusually high number of students attempting to touch the fire in 2016. Then-director of Safety and Security Harry Kinne estimated that about 50 people attempted to touch the bonfire. The fire department decided to knock down a portion of the structure that year because of the risk of collapse posed by so many students running up to the fire.

Vice president for alumni relations Martha Beattie ’76, who is also master of ceremony in the Dartmouth Nights Ceremonies, agreed that touching the fire is not a tradition but is instead perilous and irresponsible.

Homecoming includes the Dartmouth Night Parade, during which students and alumni get together and march through campus, which Beattie said was a highlight of the weekend for her.

“We really felt the strong connection between generations of Dartmouth students,” she said.

The Collis Center coordinates the planning of the bonfire, which involves over 10 departments and is led by two first-year build chairs and two bonfire chairs, director of student involvement Anna Hall said.

“This year’s bonfire was very successful,” Hall said.