For decades, Spring Weekend – the celebration enjoyed by the Storrs UConn campus in the days between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of final exams – has been a black eye for the university.
Over the years, Spring Weekend became synonymous with binge drinking, off-campus (including out-of-state) party crashers, cars set on fire, reports of rape, and even violence resulting in death.
The problem wasn’t with the university-sanctioned events carefully organized by students. Trouble brewed in the mobs that congregated over the three days, mainly at apartment complexes on Hunting Lodge Road adjacent to UConn’s north campus (as well as within UConn’s X-Lot.) Triage units were stationed at Carriage House Apartments, for example, to deal with injuries and other emergencies, such as alcohol poisoning.
Neighbors of these apartment complexes braced themselves each year on Spring Weekend for damage created on their properties by drunken young people – broken glass, garbage and the aftermath of party-goers using lawns to relieve themselves.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the town, State Police and other emergency responders, and the university in an attempt to keep party-goers safe and damages to a minimum.
In the past few years, more and more stringent strategies were employed, including police road blocks to keep non-UConn-students away.
Two years ago, both the town, rental property owners and the university had enough, and declared a moratorium – no official Spring Weekend.
They also called on students to cooperate. While this did not eliminate all off-campus parties, it did put a damper on the event.
Now, UConn President Susan Herbst feels it’s possible to revive Spring Weekend – in the spirit in which it was originally intended.
Spring Weekend this year is April 25-27. Students are developing events with a theme of “UConn Learns, UConn Serves, UConn Cares,” that may include concerts, food trucks and volunteer service.
In an April 24 2012 letter to the community – submitted jointly by Herbst and Mansfield Mayor Betsy Paterson – the two expressed optimism about a saner, safer future Spring Weekend:
“As many of you know, the period once known as ‘Spring Weekend’ began harmlessly many years ago as an end-of-semester tradition for UConn students.
However, over four decades, it gradually became an ugly and destructive event that was increasingly dominated by non-students with no connection to UConn or Mansfield and little to lose. It put our community and our students at risk. The evidence of this was endless: fights, fires, vandalism, theft, and violence became its hallmarks. It was disturbing in equal measure to both the University and the residents of Mansfield, who suffered from its consequences each year.
Thanks to the combined efforts of our own students, public safety and other university personnel, state and local police, the town of Mansfield and area property owners, that unwanted recurring event has come to an end.
To all those who contributed to this positive change, we thank you on behalf of our entire institution and the town of Mansfield. Most especially, we thank the students of the University of Connecticut, without whom this partnership would have been ineffective.
We have received very positive feedback from many UConn students, our faculty and staff, area residents and from throughout our state, which collectively came to see ‘Spring Weekend’ as a stain on the University’s reputation and – by extension – an embarrassment to the state of Connecticut itself.
It was not the University’s problem alone, but the University had to play a leading role in addressing the weekend and its consequences. The fact was: we knew UConn was better than that.
This is not a view shared by everyone; many non-students and some of our own students lamented its demise. They noted, as the University did, that UConn students were never really the root of the problem; for example, non-students who traveled to Mansfield accounted for between 80 percent and 90 percent of the arrests made each year.
Others objected to the police presence and restrictions on campus, suggesting that students were being adversely affected by the measures designed to keep those with no UConn connection away from campus. That is true – but by necessity: there was no practical way to create an effective filter to separate students from non-students and, beyond that, in order to begin new traditions, the old first had to be ended.
And so, in addition to saying thank you, especially to students, for your contribution to the effort to end Spring Weekend, we also write to you today about the future.
Over the next year, we look forward to engaging in a discussion across our campus and in the community about establishing new, more positive end-of-semester traditions that are exclusively for UConn students and are both safe and enjoyable.
We cannot put it better than one student recently did when he said simply that he ‘would like to have fun with my friends’ and fellow students at the end of the semester before finals begin. That is a good place to begin.”
Posted February 12, 2013
Related links: “Spring Weekend revival aims to create a safe environment,” UConn Daily Campus, http://www.dailycampus.com/news/spring-weekend-revival-aims-for-create-a-safe-environment-1.2976300#.URlNqfL4KSo
“UConn puncher pleads guilty, faces 10 years,” Mansfield Today July 6, 2011 http://mansfield.htnp.com/2011/07/06/uconn-puncher-pleads-guilty-faces-10-years
“UConn prepares for Spring Weekend,” Mansfield Today April 18, 2012 http://mansfield.htnp.com/2012/04/18/uconn-prepares-for-spring-weekend
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