If there's one thing we're sure about, it's that most Brown students don't want their ability to party on campus shut down by the Providence Police. We came too close for comfort last week, when PPD Chief of Police Dean Esserman was quoted in the Providence Journal saying "The position this department will take is: ‘We're against anything Brown wants to permit' … Everything for the rest of the year is canceled, period." Though Esserman retracted later in the week, it's a scary possibility.
Relations between the police and the University came to a brink two Saturdays ago, when Delta Sigma Theta, an off-campus sorority with members from various Rhode Island colleges, threw a party (ironically called "Scandalous") at Alumnae Hall where four people were arrested, a man tried to reach for a police officer's gun and Department of Public Safety officers needed pepper spray to break up a fight that broke out on the dance floor.
The prospect of violence at on-campus parties is, of course, even scarier than the possibility of parties being shut down, as bad as that would be. A number of students and other partygoers could have been seriously injured. How can the University make sure that something like this won't happen again?
We suggest it might start by looking at the sponsoring organization. Delta Sigma Theta is not a "Residential Greek Organization" that takes part in Brown's Greek Council. All 10 of those fraternities and sororities are housed on campus and made up exclusively of Brown students. Delta Sigma Theta, by contrast, is open to students at all Rhode Island colleges.
While Greek organizations at Brown hold large parties frequently, no event in recent memory has created the type of problems witnessed recently. Part of the difficulty is the wider presence of people from off-campus: All four individuals arrested were Massachusetts residents, not Brown students.
That is not to say that non-Brown students are necessarily untrustworthy or that they ought to be banned from Brown's campus entirely. Our point is that on-campus parties hosted by social organizations with a significant non-Brown contingent are especially risky. Because their members know people from all over the state, word about these parties can spread much more easily to individuals that the hosts do not want in attendance. Non-Brown students are also less likely to know that DPS officers are fully licensed and enabled law enforcement officials, making them less likely to listen to them when a bad situation escalates. This in turn makes PPD involvement more likely, damaging University-police relations and endangering Brown parties.
To ensure the safety of partygoers and to prevent Brown students from being punished for incidents out of their control, off-campus organizations should not be allowed to host parties on campus until a thorough review of the Scandalous incident is completed.
Though some basic measures like restrictions on off-campus advertising are already in place, lax rules of entry or University regulations on conduct may have been at fault. Until such facts can be ascertained, Brown should shut these events down.
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