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The Scarlet & Black

ACE reconsiders Harris parties

Weekly campus council meetings discuss issues such as the future of traditional ACE events. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.

By Philip Kiely

Every weekend, hundreds of students gather for a party in Harris or Gardner sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA), All Campus Events Committee (ACE) or hosted by a student group. Although certain weekends are typically reserved for Harris parties, ACE has been required to make last-minute changes for scheduling reasons, bringing up questions of safety at college parties. For example, last weekend, due to the unavailability of Harris, the Beyoncé themed party was moved to the much smaller Gardner venue.

“We tried to get Harris for that party, … but due to some scheduling conflicts SGA was not able to secure Harris instead of Gardner, so we had to come up with a new plan,” said Michelle Risacher ’17, director of ACE Student Safety (ACESS).

When planning Harris parties, the SGA plans for a maximum of 300 people at a time. However, Gardner’s capacity is about half of that, which makes it a challenge.

“Beyoncé Harris/Gardner was a challenge, and we’re still kind of dealing with that,” said Claudia Handal ’18, ACE Coordinator.

Weekly campus council meetings discuss issues such as the future of traditional ACE events. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.
Weekly campus council meetings discuss issues such as the future of traditional ACE events. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.

Because of the smaller space, ACESS, a student staff that provides crowd control and event safety in a non-punitive manner, had to make some tough calls in the name of safety.

“Even though we were turning people away, we were still over capacity,” Risacher said.

Fortunately, the lines were short, and people were able to enter after a slight delay.

“So we had to come up with an alternative plan or otherwise cancel the event itself and so while we’re aware that it was probably not a popular plan this was opposed to canceling the event altogether so that’s one of the tough decisions that we have to make,” said Risacher.

Keeping events under capacity is integral to safety.

“There was a lot of sweating … and so that’s a hazard because people can slip on that sweat … in case of an emergency where we would need to evacuate Gardner, there’s a danger that there could be a stampede which could result in injuries and even death,” Risacher said.

Overfilled events also inhibit ACESS workers from effectively doing their jobs. The dense crowds make it difficult for them to access partygoers who may need help.

Gardner does have some advantages over Harris as a location.

“Gardner is a much smaller space, … it’s a more fluid space. … I think that the sound quality is much better at Gardner,” Handal said.

It is typically used for concerts, and is accessible to non-students while Harris is used for larger student-only gatherings.

One thing that does not change between the two spaces is the commitment shared by SGA, ACE and ACESS to making parties safe and enjoyable. ACE provides each Harris or Gardner party with pizza and water, and a budget for anything that the party might need.

“ACESS is there to keep the peace, help students stay safe and uphold self-governance,” Handal said.

“We’re not the police, we’re not campus safety, we are students, we are your peers, so if you need something please let us know. … We’re not punitive, we’re not going to send them anywhere or give them a fine or anything” said Ayesha Mirzakhail ’17, Director of ACESS.

ACE and ACESS are each trying new things to improve the Harris experience. This semester, there were no pre-determined Harris themes, so students groups chose their own.

“Instead of having Halloween Harris on Halloween somebody could technically have done it in November,” Handal said.

ACESS has just rolled out walkie-talkies for their staff, and plans to add headsets as well. This improves communication, especially in Gardner, which has poor reception.

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