UP&A meets to discuss dance security problems

By Markos Moulitsas

University Programs and Activities held a meeting Thursday to discuss solutions to problems leading to several outbreaks of violence during Saturday’s Homecoming dance at the Chick Evans Field House.

Although weak security was blamed for the violence during the dance, Michelle Emmett, director of UP&A tried to shift the focus of the meeting away from laying blame.

“Regardless of where blame goes, we need to talk about solutions. We can’t have people not be safe, not be secure,” Emmett said.

She said what happened at the dance, such as a lack of ID checks, no frisking of people entering the dance and damage to the field house, could not happen again.

Solutions suggested by people present at the meeting included selling advance tickets to the dance, having more entrances and exits in the building, the utilization of an outside security firm instead of NIU security, allowing only current NIU ID holders to attend the event and the installment of metal detectors at the field house.

Senior English major, Deborah Osher said, “It’s the people from the city (Chicago) causing the problems. If they’re just riffraff from the city causing problems, then they shouldn’t be there.”

Many people pointed out it wouldn’t be feasible to limit the dances to NIU students, especially during the Homecoming dance, since some students might have boyfriends or girlfriends that weren’t students and it would be contrary to Homecoming’s whole concept to turn away alumni attempting to attend.

The current policy is to allow each student five guests, which are signed in at the door. In theory, this would make the student responsible for any of the actions of his or her guests.

Still, Emmett said the system was being abused. She said she sat and watched as several people attempting to attend the dance successfully asked complete strangers to sign them in.

It also was pointed out it was difficult to hold students responsible for the actions of their guests.

“When a fight breaks out, the individuals are never identified,” said Collin Halliman, Minority Affairs Advisor for the Student Association.

In Wednesday’s Northern Star, Rick Clark, adviser to the NIU chapter of the PanHellenic Council, said that whenever he tried to reach the scene of a fight, those involved would disperse in different directions, making it impossible to identify them.

One problem associated with turning people away from dances is the possibility of fights occurring outside the dances.

“I have a problem with turning people away (at dances) since there will be a lot of anger from people turned away standing outside,” said Torrick Ward, Sergeant-in-Arms of the National PanHellenic Council.

Concerning the attendance of non-NIU students to these events, Emmett said they would consider charging more for non-students, as the CAB Concert Committee currently does.

An alternative to dances at the field house proposed at the meeting was using the Duke Ellington Ballroom in the Holmes Student Center for smaller events. The main obstacle to this proposal was the 12:30 a.m. closing time of the ballroom.

Although many people supported the extension of hours at the ballroom, such an extension was opposed by Judd Baker, director of the student center.

“Extending those hours would destroy the security of the building,” Baker said. “As parties progress and it gets later, things tend to happen. There is little vandalism between 10 to 12 (midnight), but later they (dance attendees) get a little juiced-up and they do things normal people wouldn’t do.”

Halliman said any person in the ballroom had access to any part of the student center, making security more difficult than was readily apparent.

Emmett decided by the end of the meeting to use an outside security firm for future Homecoming dances and created a committee to meet with Baker to try and reach a decision on extending the hours for the ballroom.