Fight raises concerns on safety

By Eric Krol

NIU and Black Greek Council officials are considering several alternatives in response to problems at a fraternity dance held last weekend.

Fighting broke out between members of a Chicago street gang and members of an NIU fraternity during an Omega Psi Phi dance held at the Holmes Student Center Friday night. The dance was stopped at midnight after the fighting broke out.

Faulty security, hot temperatures in the room and a downed sound system were cited as reasons for the fight by NIU officials and Omega Psi Phi Graduate Adviser Willie Fowler.

The incident raised concerns from students, administrators and members of the Black Greek Council (BGC) on the safety of these dances.

Tonia Havard, president of Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority Inc., said the BGC came up with several suggestions to remedy the problem at its Monday night meeting.

Havard said better training of security guards was one of the BGC’s suggestions. Fowler said Monday that security guards were poorly trained.

Rick Clark, associate director of University Programming and Activities, said the security guards were recently hired and were only told “what to look for.” A more formal training session is scheduled for Thursday, he said.

However, BGC President Anita McNulty said the guards were hired on Thursday night for the Friday dance.

Another suggested alternative is to use metal detectors. Don Buckner, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said metal detectors are “worth exploring.”

However, Clark said metal detectors are expensive and require experts to operate. “If they want to get weapons through, they will,” he said.

McNulty said the university has refused to buy metal detectors in the past. “These things could be used at other events as well to insure students’ safety.”

Havard said BGC also suggested moving the security tables away from the entrance. Clark said problems did arise when large groups of people were entering and leaving the dance. It became difficult to frisk and check identification of everyone, he added.

Another alternative is to cancel the dances altogether. However, Buckner said he “certainly would not like to see the dances stopped.”

Clark said although this was not an agreeable option, “it might be something we’ll have to look into.”

Havard said, “You can’t just cancel. The student center is the only place we can hold these dances.”

“This is our only social outlet,” McNulty said. “It’s going to be taken away from us. We’re the ones that can stop (the problems).”

Havard said the university is leaning toward not letting guests attend the dances, limiting them only to NIU students.

Buckner said this option is under consideration.

Under the current security plan, people are required to show identification at the door and are supposed to be frisked for weapons and alcohol.