Student arrests related to drinking have increased in Fredericksburg, and parties are moving out of college heights as the tension between the community and University of Mary Washington students continues to mount throughout the fall semester.
This was the focus of the Sept. 27 town and gown meeting, hosted by public information officer of the Fredericksburg police department Natalia Bledsoe. Illegal possession of alcohol by minors, public intoxication and hosting gatherings where underage drinking is occurring are the primary reasons for student arrests.
On the weekend of Sept. 15, 17 students were arrested at an off-campus party downtown by agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). Plain-clothes ABC agents are entering college parties, buying drinks from students and then returning with a search warrant and citations for those implicated, according to Bledsoe.
Fredericksburg city cops are primarily surveilling the streets around campus, including William Street and Sunken Road. The majority of police arrests occur when students draw attention to themselves by acting drunk and disorderly while walking home. They are typically approached for being loud, public urination or drinking in public.
Many students are uncomfortable with the reputation UMW students are garnering in the community.
Romadon Montivaze Stovall, a senior business major, said, “UMW is not a party school. I came here for the academics and if I wanted to party all the time, I would’ve went to a school known for that. We’re attracting the wrong type of attention.”
Student arrests make up less than one percent of the arrests in Fredericksburg, and some students believe the community perceives student conduct as more of a problem than it is.
“I have definitely noticed an increase in partying since my freshman year but I don’t think we’re affecting the community any more or less,” said Suzannah Carretto, sophomore political science major, said. “Students here are generally really respectful.”
All students who are arrested off-campus in Fredericksburg are reported on-campus to Ray Tuttle, director of judicial affairs. Tuttle meets with these students to discuss the incident, and if the individual has no prior violations on or off-campus, the arrest is recorded and the student is informed that future arrests will be handled on a formal level.
If the student does have a judicial record on campus, or has been arrested previously, the alleged violation is adjudicated, as it would be for an on-campus Code of Conduct violation.
The Judicial Affairs website states, “Holding students accountable, through the judicial system, for off-campus conduct (resulting in arrest or citation) is a standard process in higher education resulting in positive learning outcomes for students and favorable town-gown relationships.”
Students are already adapting to the increased surveillance. Facebook events are becoming more privatized, guest lists more inclusive and parties are moving further from campus. There are some students who believe the safest place to party is on-campus because residence halls are patrolled by Resident Assistants as opposed to city police.
As president of the Commuter Student Association (CSA), Ally Blanck, a senior political science major, is working toward increased awareness about the arrests for off-campus students.
In preparation for homecoming, CSA and Kagan McSpadden, community outreach chair for the Student Government Association (SGA), are kicking off a “Party Smart” campaign. At the homecoming carnival and sports games, informational giveaways will be available regarding cab companies, police services and safety tips.
On Sunday Oct. 21, there will be a community clean-up day that all are encouraged to volunteer at.
As Blanck describes, “Homecoming isn’t just about UMW and partying; it’s about the community and our relationship with Fredericksburg as well. It’s important for students to take an active role in fostering a mutual respect between campus and the community.”