By Lauren Donaldson
After two students fought at a party in Gummere last Saturday, March 26, a heated discussion about the incident and the students involved broke out on the GO Boards, eliciting student interest in the event and its larger impact on the Haverford community.
The party, which was organized and hosted by the ultimate frisbee team, was attended by Haverford students and students from other schools that participated in the weekend’s ultimate frisbee tournament. Spencer Walters ’05, a co-captain of the team, estimated that about 50-55 of the approximately 100 students in attendance were students from other colleges and universities. During the course of the party, a fight broke out between a Haverford student and a Vassar student, provoking a response from Haverford Safety and Security officers and the Haverford Township Police.
According to Nora Nelle, Associate Director of Safety and Security, the office received a call around 12:30 a.m. reporting that a fight was in progress in Gummere. Initially it was reported that two non-Haverford students were fighting, so Safety and Security officers called the Haverford Township Police.
Two officers responded to the call immediately. The first entered the building from the west side, where he encountered a Quaker Bouncer as well as a Vassar student who was involved in the fight. The Vassar student was nude. According to the Security report, the Vassar student had several minor cuts on his back, but he declined medical treatment from the Security officer.
A supervisor entered Gummere from the other end of the building, where he ran into two Haverford students who denied involvement in the fight but were later identified by witnesses as the students who participated in the altercation. One said that he had been struck under the eye. The officer reported that his eye showed minor swelling. He, too, declined medical treatment.
After conducting interviews with witnesses at the party, Safety and Security officers could not ascertain what provoked the students to fight. Witnesses’ reports stated that during the fight, a Haverford student smashed a beer bottle near the Vassar student, creating glass shards that cut the Vassar student’s back. Once the Safety and Security officers arrived, the supervisor asked the students present to close down the party, and he helped them do so. They also asked all of the non-Haverford students involved in the altercation to leave campus. The security report stated that everyone involved had been drinking alcohol.
Peter Blessington HC’07 believes that the nude non-Haverford student’s behavior may have provoked the fight. According to Blessington, when he entered the party “the first thing that caught my eye was this naked guy who came over and was noticeably drunk.” Blessington stated that the non-Haverford student “grabbed for [his (Blessington's)] crotch.” Blessington jumped back, and the non-Haverford student walked away. Blessington reportedly witnessed the non-Haverford student make inappropriate gestures towards other party-goers, both men and women.
Both Walters and Blessington commented on Security’s quick response. Walters stated that “Safety and Security got there very quickly and were very calm.” Jeff Millman, one of the founders of the Quaker Bouncers—a group of students who are hired to attend parties to roam and/or check IDs—believes that the presence of two Quaker Bouncers, who were hired to roam at the party, allowed for a quick response. According to Millman, “the presence of the Quaker Bouncers allowed Security to respond to the incident in 45 seconds: an incredible response time. Without the Quaker Bouncers there, security could not have been informed in nearly as timely a fashion. We have a direct line to security officers around campus.”
In the days following the incident, many students around campus began discussing the fight through a GO board thread. In the thread, students discussed whether or not the actions taken by the Haverford student were acceptable on the campus. According to Blessington, the contrasting viewpoints showed that “there are mainly two groups of students here as far as this issue goes and a few in the middle ground. One part of the student body expresses my view that if you get harassed you get angry enough to maybe want to fight them, especially with increasing intoxication levels. There is another part of the student body that thinks that type of response is so outrageous.”
Although Blessington understands the Haverford’s students’ reaction to the non-Haverford’s students actions, he also stated that he “was upset to see the drastic measures that were taken against the naked student in question. But I definitely think that because it was a Haverford College frisbee party, the members of the frisbee team may have wanted to call security when they saw what the [non-Haverford] student was doing. And maybe it should have been the students’—like myself—duty to call security when we saw this happen. It did end up resulting in something that was a bit out of hand.”
When asked about responsibility issues concerning guests, Nelle stated that “everyone is responsible for other people and for their guests.” She noted that the Haverford Student Guide has a section that details students’ responsibilities concerning guests. According to the guide, “Students are responsible for their guests at all time and must be sure they know and are willing to comply with all rules that apply to their on-campus stay, including the Social Honor Code.” When asked who had the ultimate responsibly for the non-Haverford student who was involved in the fight, Nelle stated that she was under the impression that Walters and the frisbee team could be held responsible because they were the hosts of the party.
Walters said that he and the team do feel some level of responsibility because they were the hosts: “I think that we’re clearly responsible for bringing these teams onto campus, but it’s clearly also a different issue to try to figure out what that means when something actually happens. I think that the most important thing is to be responsible to take precautionary measures beforehand. You can only apologize so much and mediate conflict so much.”
Speaking about hosts’ responsibilities, Julien Colvin ’05, Honor Council co-chair, said that the current guest policy in the alcohol policy and party guidelines states that a student sponsoring a guest has three obligations: to inform the guest about the social Honor Code and the alcohol policy, to stay with the guest at all times, and to accept responsibility for his or her guest’s actions. Before last Saturday’s party, the frisbee team co-captains Walters and Will Moss ’05 met with captains from the invited teams to inform them about Haverford’s Honor Code and alcohol policy. According to Walters, the captains handed out a sheet that provided Pennsylvania’s laws regarding alcohol consumption, reminded the teams that the party would be held in a residential dorm and that they should be respectful of the residents, outlined Haverford’s standards of conduct within the social Honor Code, and provided contact numbers for Haverford Safety and Security and a taxi company.
Nelle believes that the fight does reflect the social Honor Code’s shortcomings: “I think that it goes back to the Honor Code being effective academically and not so much socially.” Reacting to the event’s placement within the sphere of the social Honor Code, Walters said, “It think it is difficult for the social Honor Code to work sometimes when alcohol is involved. The social Honor Code is also difficult when something occurs between a non-Haverford student and a Haverford student. But we are trying to rectify the situation the best that we can. We are communicating with the deans and JSAAPP to try to make sure that things like this don’t happen again.”