By Logan Hullinger
INDIANA — Landlords increasingly are instrumental in policing the IUPatty’s party scene during the annual Indiana University of Pennsylvania student-initiated March mayhem, students, landlords and police say.
Police appreciate the development, with some reservations. Students don’t appreciate it.
“Landlords are policing their own,” borough police Chief William C. Sutton said during a March 18 interview in his office. “They are a tremendous help.”
Enlistment of the landlords followed a March 2014 IUPatty’s weekend that made headlines about wild partying and riots, according to Richard Clawson, executive director of the Indiana-Armstrong Builders Association and co-chair of the recently formed Indiana Landlord Association.
IUP President Michael A. Driscoll and police Chief Sutton approached Clawson and a colleague in the local property-management industry “shortly after the 2014 celebration made headlines,” Clawson said during an April 5 interview in his office. “They wanted to make a clear line of communication between the university, local police and landlords in the area.”
Landlords were recruited to keep students and properties safe, Clawson said. But landlords also could warn tenants about “repercussions that can follow disorderly conduct on a company’s property.”
Later that summer, university representatives organized an August 12, 2014, meeting at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex with local and state government officials and other stakeholders.
Meeting organizers extended invitations to 665 local landlords. Attendance is not known. The meeting was closed to the public and to the press.
THIS YEAR, the stakeholders –- now called the Indiana Area Collaborative Team, or I-ACT — met on March 3 to discuss their game plan for the March 18-20 party weekend. About 65 landlords attended, according to a March 7 email summary of the gathering. The summary reported that local landlords were stepping up private surveillance of their rental properties.
On Feb. 17, for example, a string of pre-IUPatty’s emails from Clawson and the landlords group to area property owners commenced. The subject line of the inaugural email was “I-ACT Spring Event Planning Meeting Scheduled.”
“Many Landlords will be ramping up Security at their properties to cover Thursday March 17th thru Saturday March 19th,” the association’s email read. “This may be something you might want to consider for your individual properties if you haven’t already.”
On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Oak Grove Realty, a rental agency at 1128 Philadelphia St., acted on the landlord association’s advice.
An unsigned email bearing the subject line “IUP Patty notice” attached a letter notifying tenants of the agency’s plans to conduct random inspection of properties, unannounced entry if notified of violations by authorities, and calls to police if illegal activity is “discovered.” The notice listed additional no-no’s:
* A gathering of five or more people in a “primary room” – a living room or a kitchen — is a violation of the lease.
* Black-out curtains “are a clear indication of effort to hide inside activities. Our
patrols will pay extra attention to any property with blacked-out windows.”
* Black lights are “a safety hazard in the event of fire or other emergency.” Landlords can remove and replace them with standard lights at tenants’ expense.
The Oak Grove letter warned tenants of police enforcement and of code officers, who “will issue citations for trash and any other code violations that occur.” It warned of heightened enforcement of parking regulations and increased risk of towing.
The letter concluded: “We truly hope that this year will not result in any problems but it is our duty to make sure that everyone is aware of consequences.”
NOT ALL I-ACT members agreed with the get-tough approach. Borough police Chief Sutton said he appreciated the landlords’ help, but he disapproved of their “modified lease agreements.”
“IUP and the groups that aid the university during the IUPatty’s weekend need to focus more on preventative maintenance and less on punishing students,” Sutton said during a March 16 interview in his downtown office. “Things such as modified lease agreements are just used to make it easier catch students in criminal or unacceptable actions.”
Sutton said he appreciated any help his department can get during student party weekends. But he added that the university and its party-policing partners should focus on education rather than punishment.
“We can’t tell the college kids not to party,” Sutton said. “What we need to do is educate them about the law and the dangers of excessive partying. If something goes wrong, the police will take care of the punishment process — not the university or its partners.”
“We can’t tell the college kids not to party. What we need to do is educate them about the law and the dangers of excessive partying. If something goes wrong, the police will take care of the punishment process — not the university or its partners.”
—Indiana borough police Chief William C. Sutton, March 16, 2016
Michelle S. Fryling, executive director of communications and media relations at IUP, disagreed.
“We need students to learn from their mistakes if they commit them,” Fryling said in a March 31 interview in her Sutton Hall office. “Depending on what crimes are committed, punishments can range from suspension to expulsion in more drastic situations.”
The university does not release data on its sanctions for student misdeeds.
Fryling acknowledged that the university has no “silver bullet” for ending excessive student partying. Indeed, the 2016 IUPatty’s weekend kept police “busier than we’ve ever been,” an officer reported.
Despite the reported increase in police activity, landlords helped to “disperse student parties farther away from campus,” Clawson said.
However, large crowds migrated to areas “where they weren’t ready for so many kids celebrating,” Clawson acknowledged. “There was still excessive partying.”
FRYLING COMMENDED police and landlords for their efforts to keep students in line. She added that IUP is not the only university to enlist landlords in its party-policing efforts.
Penn State University follows the practice, according to Onward State, an “independent, alternative Penn State news website,” in a Feb. 26 article. Penn State’s police chief dispatched a letter to landlords prior to the 2016 State Patty’s annual student revel to “encourage restrictions on parties and strictly enforce any lease violations related to alcohol and partying.”
Fryling described the enlistment of landlords in 2016 IUPatty’s policing as part of a collaboration.
“This is a team effort in Indiana,” Fryling said. “The No. 1 priority is to keep students safe.”
She cited IUP’s sponsorship of 50 university-sponsored on-campus activities, such as “Karaoke and Mocktails,” “Positive T-Shirt Making” and “Grilled Cheese and Games.” But Fryling acknowledged that “the activities alone aren’t going to do much to help; they’re just one part of the plan.”
INDEED, results of a post-IUPatty’s email survey of students suggested that the university-sponsored alternative activities were not popular during the party weekend. An overwhelming proportion of survey respondents – 92 percent — said they attended none of the university-sponsored events. (See survey details, below.)
Most respondents — 64 percent — said they attended off-campus parties, where 61 percent said they consumed alcohol.
Of the 8 percent of students who reported attending one or more of the university-sponsored alternatives, most of them — 85 percent — reported consuming alcohol either before or after attending the on-campus events.
Meanwhile, at off-campus parties, a plurality of student respondents reported increased presence of unwelcome authorities. Nearly half – 48 percent – said they witnessed an “uninvited presence by police, landlords or other authorities.”
In the March 31 interview in her Sutton Hall office, Fryling promised that IUP “will continue its efforts with landlords and police to monitor students” during future party weekends, including Homecoming and IUPatty’s.
Logan Hullinger, a sophomore journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from Clarion, is a staff reporter for The HawkEye. He can be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu.
Sidebar 1: Qualtrics survey results
The data below report IUP students’ experiences during the 2016 IUPatty’s party weekend — Thursday, March 17, through Sunday, March 20. The nine-item questionnaire (for full text, see sidebar, below) was emailed to 1,000 undergraduate students on March 22. The survey, distributed using the IUP Applied Research Lab’s Qualtrics polling tool, closed on March 31.
Responses were received from 91 students, a response rate of 9.1 percent. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.
A summary of the responses:
* 53 percent of those who participated in off-campus festivities were age 21 or older.
* 64 percent said they attended off-campus parties during the weekend.
* 61 percent said they consumed alcohol at off-campus parties.
* 48 percent reported an uninvited presence of police, landlords or other authorities.
* 92 percent of all respondents said they attended none of the university-sponsored events on campus.
* Of the 8 percent who reported attending an alternative, university-sponsored on-campus event, most — 85 percent — reported consuming alcohol either before or after the on-campus event.
* 6 percent of students said they attended both on-campus and off-campus activities during the weekend.
Sidebar 2: Qualtrics survey questionnaire
Following is the text of a nine-item questionnaire emailed to 1,000 IUP undergraduate students on March 22:
My name is Logan Hullinger. I am a sophomore IUP journalism major conducting this survey for a news story about IUPatty’s for publication in The HawkEye, an online newspaper published in the journalism department.
This survey is being conducted for the story. Individual survey responses will be anonymous. Aggregated anonymous response data may be published in the HawkEye published by journalism professor David Loomis.
If you are willing to be interviewed by a reporter, you may provide your contact information at the conclusion of this questionnaire.
Some background: In recent years, the IUPatty’s party weekend has created public-relations problems for the university and public-safety concerns for the community during the month of March. In response, university and community officials have enlisted and coordinated public police agencies and of private landlords to minimize problems and concerns.
The questionnaire follows:
1. What is your sex?
2. What is your age as of Monday, March 21, 2016?
22 or older
3. Did you participate in off-campus IUPatty’s weekend parties in and around Indiana between Thursday, March 17, and Sunday, March 20, 2016?
4. Did you consume alcohol at any of these off-campus IUPatty’s weekend parties in and around Indiana?
5. Did you witness an uninvited presence by police, landlords or other authorities at any of these off-campus IUPatty’s weekend parties?
6. Did you participate in on-campus, university-sponsored events that coincided with and offered alternatives to off-campus IUPatty’s weekend events?
7. Did you consume alcohol before or during any of these on-campus, university-sponsored events that coincided with and offered alternatives to off-campus IUPatty’s weekend events?
8. Did you participate in both the private off-campus parties and the university-sponsored, on-campus IUPatty’s weekend events?
9. If you would like to be interviewed by a reporter about this, please provide your contact information.