Homecoming weekend sees fewer incidents

by Debora Hyemin Han | 11/1/16 1:21am


A higher number of first-year students attempted to touch the fire this year than in past years.

by Lauren Kim / The Dartmouth

Although the total number of security reports decreased this Homecoming weekend compared to previous years, the number of first-year students that attempted to touch the bonfire significantly increased, according to Safety and Security director Harry Kinne.

Kinne estimated that around 50 people attempted to touch the bonfire this year. Between 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning and Monday morning, Safety and Security received a total of 42 incident reports, representing a 36 percent decrease from last year’s figure of 66 incidents. Many of these reports were related to alcohol consumption.

Despite the high frequency of attempts to touch the bonfire, Hanover Police lieutenant Scott Rathburn said that the department arrested and charged only one student with a court date.

“Our officers were not getting into foot pursuits with people that touched the fire and ran,” he noted. “So there may have been more actual people touching the fire.”

Safety and Security is still in the process of identifying individuals who touched the bonfire through video footage, among other means. Kinne said if someone is believed to have touched the fire, then Safety and Security will create a report on that student and forward it to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which subsequently makes a judgment on whether or not the student violated College policy.

Because so many students attempted to approach the fire and one student almost slid into the fire itself, the College and the Hanover Fire Department decided to knock down a part of the bonfire structure. This is something that has not been done in past years, Kinne said.

“We were afraid that there were so many students who were running up to touch it that it would collapse on them, and we couldn’t risk that,” he said.

Safety and Security officers, Hanover Police officers and Hanover firefighters were on the scene to monitor the bonfire, as were 10 hired officers from Green Mountain Concert Services. The rainy weather leading up to the event further exacerbated potential liabilities with the fire.

“The bonfire is a wonderful tradition,” Kinne said. “The touching of the fire is something that’s relatively new. It’s unfortunate that people put themselves at risk that way because if someone fell, it would be very difficult to get them out.”

He added that in the event of such a fall, first responders would be forced to go near the fire to rescue individuals.

Aside from incidents related to the bonfire, the overall number of security reports has gone down for the third year in a row — a fact that Kinne attributes to the ban on hard alcohol, an emphasis on first-year safety and the policy that bans first-year students from entering Greek houses until after Homecoming weekend. Though Kinne said he does not believe that the hard alcohol ban has eliminated issues related to alcohol on campus, he has noticed a decrease in highly intoxicated students.

“Even if students have a tendency to want to drink hard alcohol and are drinking it, I speculate they are drinking it in more moderation because of the fact that it is prohibited,” he said.