UD makes changes for St. Patrick’s Day to avoid another disturbance

University of Dayton gathered in the streets Saturday afternoon celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the area of Kiefaber and Evanston. Police moved in late in the afternoon and ordered students to disperse. There were no immediate reports of injuries. MARK GOKAVI/STAFF

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University of Dayton gathered in the streets Saturday afternoon celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the area of Kiefaber and Evanston. Police moved in late in the afternoon and ordered students to disperse. There were no immediate reports of injuries. MARK GOKAVI/STAFF

University of Dayton leaders hope the school will avoid a repeat of last year’s St. Patrick’s Day as students return to campus Sunday on the annual holiday.

Students on Lowes Street threw objects at police and shot fireworks into crowds of people last year. By 6:30 p.m. that day, officers arrived in riot gear and ordered party-goers indoors, though many at first ignored those commands.

The safety of students, campus police and the rest of the community is the “No. 1 priority,” UD police chief Rodney Chatman said. Most of UD’s 8,200 or so undergraduate students live on campus in residence halls or houses owned by the university.

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“We cannot have a repeat of last year. Officers were assaulted. Students were in harm’s way, based on the behavior that was demonstrated,” Chatman said. “Again, our goal and our wish is for students to enjoy one another, enjoy the day but do it in a safe and responsible way.”

The 2018 incidents were less violent and disruptive than the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day campus riot.

More than 1,000 people rioted in UD’s student neighborhood six years ago, leaving broken bottles and damaged cars in their wake on Kiefaber Street, including a police cruiser. Law enforcement from 10 jurisdictions responded.

The university has dealt with a series of major St. Patrick’s Day disturbances dating back to the early 1980s. In 1993, UD scheduled spring break to include the March 17 holiday.

UD police will shift their strategy a bit this year, Chatman said. Officers will be dedicated to monitoring the student neighborhood that day. More officers also will patrol on foot and by bicycle, he said, instead of in cruisers.

“We’re prepared for the best, we’re prepared for the worst and everything in between,” Chatman said.

As usual, students who choose not to partake in partying or drinking will have other options available to them through the student union and the recreation center, said Christine Schramm, UD associate vice president and dean of students.

The school has implemented a strict set of spring break housing rules in an attempt to avoid the debauchery from last year.

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Students won’t be permitted to move back into campus housing until 3 p.m. Sunday. Classes will resume at 8 a.m. the day after the holiday.

Students with a home more than 400 miles from UD could apply to remain on campus during spring break. Students also were allowed to stay if they had an internship or co-op in town, if they had a job nearby that employed them for at least 20 hours a week or if they were part of a sports team that competed or trained at the time, according to the school.

That 400-mile radius meant no students from Ohio could reside at UD during break. The distance required students from as far west as St. Louis and as far south as Chattanooga, Tenn., to leave campus.

Though the timing of spring break might make St. Patrick’s Day issues less likely this year, it also provided a communication issue.

Because few students were on campus, Schramm said the school has resorted mostly to emails and letters to notify students and parents of their expectations for behavior on the holiday. Last week Chatman also released a video message via YouTube encouraging students to be responsible.

“The challenge with this year has been we’ve been on a spring break previous to this,” Schramm said. “So we have sent out lots of communications to students with email, letters to parents sharing our expectations.”

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