BY MARAIS JACON-DUFFY
Butler University’s “midsummer” weekend may come to a stop due to arrests, community complaints and negative media attention surrounding the June weekend.
As local outlets such as FOX 59 and the Indianapolis Star reported, 33 Butler students were arrested by excise police at midsummer this year. Countless others were ticketed.
Levester Johnson, vice president of student affairs, said he believes midsummer weekend, an informal social gathering held on the weekend between summer class sessions, is becoming progressively less safe and less healthy for students.
“This event, this midsummer weekend, will stop,” Johnson said. “This is an unsanctioned and unorganized activity. But the numbers of students attending keep growing.”
Johnson said he doesn’t blame the media for covering the police activity on campus during midsummer.
“When something like this happens, it’s a story, and I can’t fault them for covering it,” Johnson said. “But we have never been an institution under this kind of microscope.”
Sophomore Katie Perez attended midsummer and was on campus from June 21 to the 23rd. She said she thinks the stories about midsummer didn’t give an accurate description of the weekend itself.
“I definitely think it was blown out of proportion,” Perez said. “While I was at midsummer, I felt safe, and I was with my friends. I didn’t see anyone naked or passed out in a bush.”
Johnson said, after talking to students, it was brought to his attention that students felt they received mixed messages regarding underage drinking and alcohol consumption on campus.
“Many of the students who received disciplinary action as a result of midsummer didn’t think that [alcohol] was becoming a problem on our campus,” Johnson said. “But it’s a matter of personal responsibility and also the community of care. When I read that students are passed out in a bush—that is definitely not the ‘Butler Way.’”
Chief of staff Ben Hunter said he believes midsummer is becoming progressively out of control.
“In the five years I’ve been here, midsummer weekend has gotten worse regarding alcohol incidents,” Hunter said.
One event called the Night Ride, a night bike ride through Indianapolis, has fallen on the same weekend as midsummer for the past two years.
Hunter said he personally received complaints from riders regarding the behavior of students during midsummer and the Night Ride.
“The riders complained of students who were running out into the street, yelling, and even throwing red cups full of beer at the riders,” Hunter said.
Hunter said that event in particular warranted him to task assistant police chief Bill Weber and BUPD for mutual aid via excise police for this year’s midsummer weekend.
Hunter explained that excise police are a separate entity from BUPD. The Intensified College Enforcement program that brought excise police to Indiana college campuses last year has since expired. Excise police are now patrolling college campuses as part of a mutual assistance agreement.
Hunter said students shouldn’t feel tricked or surprised by excise police.
“It’s pretty easy to predict when excise will be on campus,” Hunter said. “They share where they are going and what they are doing very clearly on their Twitter [@ExcisePolice].”
Johnson said numbers are proving that excise police are helping safety on campus.
“All excise police are is an extra set of eyes,” Johnson said, “but since they’ve been on campus, incidents related to alcohol have gone down at around 10 percent.”
Sophomore David Kennedy said he believes excise police on campus are good for campus safety.
“I know it may not be the popular opinion, but I think excise police are good for colleges,” Kennedy said. “Students are afraid of getting caught, so they don’t go as crazy with the drinking as they might otherwise, and they aren’t as likely to wander around campus or go to random parties that might get busted. I think, because students are afraid of excise police, they’re going to be safer on weekends.”
Hunter and Johnson both urge students under 21 not to consume alcohol.
“I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: If you’re not 21, don’t consume alcohol,” Hunter said. “But if you are 21, just please do it responsibly. All we want is a fun and safe environment.”
Johnson said the university’s goal to stop activity like that displayed at midsummer is for the benefit of Butler students.
“We don’t want the Butler diploma to be tarnished and we don’t want to decrease the value of the Butler name,” Johnson said. “I can continue to preach, but in the end, students will just have to be responsible.”