posted on: Thursday September 11, 2014
by Meaghan Dodson ’17
Whether you like it or not, the fact is that Providence College is famous or infamous for its semi-annual “Golf Party.” In the beginning of the fall semester and at the end of the spring semester, the students of PC (and many of the neighboring colleges) dress in their preppiest attire and parade down Eaton Street for a day that is notorious for underage drinking, large crowds, and a surfeit of Lily Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines. On Saturday, September 6, 2014, this fall’s Golf Party proved to be no exception, and the College even made local news as 13 of the over 2,000 participants were arrested for charges that ranged from disorderly conduct to underage drinking and open containers.
This fall, however, marked the first year in which the College proposed an alternative option to this event: Golf Par-tee, a school-sponsored function that was held on Slavin Lawn at the same time as Golf Party and offered incentives such as a mini-golf course, DJ, free food, and beer garden. The event was sponsored by SAIL and spearheaded by Dr. Steven Sears, the dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs.
Sears is no stranger to the dangers of off-campus partying and drinking; in fact, he is the one who receives the dreaded phone calls at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night, informing him that he is needed at the hospital where another PC student has been transported for intoxication. Sears asserts that he organized the Golf Par-tee not to prevent PC students from enjoying themselves, but rather to allow them to have fun in a safe and controlled environment.
Kristine Goodwin, the vice president for student affairs, explains that the Golf Par-tee is part of a three-part plan to address off-campus behavior. She offers that the first—and most important—goal is to ensure student safety. Goodwin points to local and national statistics that reveal how drinking at off-campus parties correlates to risks such as injury and sexual and physical assault. Goodwin maintains that she is looking out for the well-being of PC students by calling for fun, on-campus alternatives to situations and environments where they are potentially at risk.
Conversely, the majority of the College’s students consider Golf Party to be the highlight of the school year and an essential part of the “PC experience.” One member of the Class of 2017 discloses, “Golf Party is a great social event that brings everyone together, especially since it is at the beginning of the school year. It introduces the freshmen to the entire school. It’s really not that dangerous as long as everyone stays under control. Even though it’s technically not on school property, it’s definitely a lot closer and safer than bars in the city. Also, it happens only twice a year. “It’s not like other colleges that have frats and football, where parties and tailgating happen every weekend.”
Goodwin, meanwhile, emphasizes that the second goal of the Golf Par-tee is to show consideration for the Providence community at large, as events such as Golf Party are not welcomed by the College’s neighbors. Major John Leyden, the executive director of safety and security, confirms that he received numerous calls on Saturday afternoon from concerned neighbors, two of whom were horrified that their 5-year-old daughter was witnessing college students urinating in her backyard and throwing trash on the family’s lawn. Goodwin states that it upsets her to hear that the students of a proud Catholic college are capable of completely disrespecting the lives and livelihoods of the very people that they, at other times throughout the year, volunteer to help.
Although she is confident that the students do not intentionally mean to disrespect their neighbors, Goodwin admits that the sheer volume of people and “crowd mentality” of these events cause students to lose control of the parties. She remarks that the PC Golf Party is so well-known that even high school students such as her son have heard about the event via various social media outlets.
Susan Derita, a dedicated member of the Elmhurst Neighborhood Crime Watch, offers a revealing testimonial about the locals’ perceptions of the event: “We are the eyes and ears of the police in the community and provide them with information that has resulted in the apprehension of several people over the years…While we recognize that many students are having their first experiences away from home, we only ask that they show the same respect to their school neighbors as they would to their neighbors at home. We want them to have a memorable time while they are here, and we realize that socializing is part of that experience. We welcome students to our neighborhood and value the economic boost they bring to our local businesses during the school year. However, large parties, destruction of property, loud music or noise late into the evening/early morning, and littering are not neighborly behaviors.”
Having echoed Derita’s sentiments, Goodwin divulges that the third and final goal of the administration is to combat the bad reputation that PC gets from college-ranking sources such as the Princeton Review. The College is known as a party school and even ranked number three this year in “Lots of Hard Liquor,” by Princeton Review, a status with which the administration is not impressed. Goodwin asserts, “The value of the students’ degrees goes down with that sort of reputation.” She wants to showcase how PC students have “so much more” to offer in terms of academia, volunteerism, athletics, and school pride.
One sophomore is in complete agreement with Goodwin, stating, “We don’t want students to want to come to our school because of events such Golf Party. It’s easy to see how the administration would be concerned and worried about this issue. This year’s Golf Par-tee was really good for people who aren’t into the whole party scene. It’s a more controlled environment because even though there is alcohol for the older students, the school is there if anything bad happens. There is less alcohol consumption at a school-sponsored event, and probably also less fighting or other incidents like that. Now that I think about it, there are probably a lot of bad things that happen off-campus that we just don’t hear about as much.”
“Who is going to argue,” Goodwin reflects, “against students having fun in a safe environment, one that doesn’t involve disrespecting their neighbors or tarnishing the College’s reputation?”
Sears concurs with Goodwin, affirming, “the issue isn’t ‘us’ against ‘them’…it is all of us together: the students and administration, along with members of the Providence neighborhood” who will succeed in nationally showcasing all that a PC student has to offer.
Goodwin intends to bring these and other issues up at the next meeting of Student Congress. She has plans to compile a video of this and previous Golf Parties to show the negative consequences of students’ actions. She hopes that this will bring to light the “big picture” and will lead students to choose more wisely in the future.