Towson U. officials reject ban on student tailgating

They will work with student leaders to address policies and procedures before Saturday's football game

September 24, 2014|By Carrie Wells | The Baltimore Sun

A raucous tailgate last weekend in which students were dancing on the roofs of cars and were "hostile" and "uncooperative" prompted Towson University officials to consider banning student tailgating at football games the rest of the season.

Though officials ultimately decided Wednesday to reject such a ban, they will discuss with student leaders over the next several days potential changes to the college's tailgating policy and its enforcement prior to football games at Johnny Unitas Stadium. After years of mediocrity on the football field, Towson's first appearance in the FCS National Championship game in January has led to a spike in student enthusiasm.

The move to consider a ban was prompted by the tailgate Saturday in the designated parking lot for students, Lot 14. In addition to issues related to alcohol and students dancing on cars, Marina Cooper, Towson's deputy chief of staff, said university staff witnessed some "hostile, uncooperative students" and confrontations between pedestrians and drivers.

Student government assocation President Kevin Kutner said he and three other student leaders had expressed their concerns to officials about the ban, but the panel had come up with some preliminary proposals for how to curb unruly tailgating.

One idea was downsizing the crowd in the main lot by offering a second location for students to tailgate, Kutner said. They're also considering requiring students who wish to park on the lot undergo a brief seminar on the university's tailgating rules and regulations. More enforcement on the six-pack-per-person maximum for students could help as well, he said.

Kutner was relieved that the proposed ban failed.

"I wish that this wasn't the situation," he said. "Yes, there are some issues we needed to address, but at the end of the day, the university needs to trust their students. I wish students would be able to have more freedom with this kind of thing."

The talks with students this week also could involve whether a larger or smaller police presence is needed and what students can do to take responsibility for their behavior, Cooper said.

Any potential changes would be announced Friday in advance of Saturday's football game against the University of Maine.

"We have some room for improvement and better setting out our expectations, and enforcing those expectations," Cooper said.

Cooper and Deb Moriarty, Towson's vice president for student affairs, said the proposed ban was made in the interests of student safety. Moriarty brought the proposal to the Student Government Association on Tuesday night and to the President's Council, a group of senior Towson officials, on Wednesday.

Towson's student newspaper, The Towerlight, first reported that the President's Council was considering a ban.

The move came after a report by The Baltimore Sun about Towson's long-standing problems with student drinking. A student died this month after falling backward into a sliding glass door and injuring her head and neck. Baltimore County police said that she was at a small off-campus party and that witnesses said she was drinking before the incident, though what role alcohol played in her death, if any, is not yet known.

Over the past several years, Towson officials have put in place or expanded a variety of programs to educate students about drinking, including a 2 1/2-hour online course required for freshmen.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

cwells@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cwellssun

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