Moorebid Ball: What really happened?

Posted by Andrew Cantor At 1:15 a.m., on Halloween morning, Campus Safety ended Moorebid Ball 45 minutes early, and Saratoga Hospital was treating 11 students for symptoms of alcohol poisoning. The incident has drawn attention in national media outlets such as AOL News and Fox News, and local newspapers including the Saratogian, Glens Falls Post-Star and the Albany Times-Union.

"This was the one of worst events we've ever had in terms of safety," said Larry Britt, Associate Director of Campus Safety, who attended the event. During the 2008 and 2009 Moorebid Ball, four students were treated for alcohol poisoning, less than half of the students hospitalized in 2010 for the same event.

Campus Safety called ambulances for intoxicated students at Moorebid Ball in Case Center and in residence halls. At least four ambulances and two fire trucks with paramedics were called on Saturday night.

"The students who were transported to the hospital were the only issues [Campus Safety] dealt with," Britt said. "I'd imagine there were countless others who were still unhealthily intoxicated."

Britt described Case Center as "hot and crowded" during the three-hour-long event, and said he witnessed students passed out on couches and vomit in corridors.

Saratoga Springs Police Department Lt. Gregory Veitch, speaking on behalf of the public services used to treat intoxicated students on Saturday night, said "the situation [Moorebid] diverted police resources from downtown. But it wasn't a riot there so it wasn't like other calls weren't being answered."

"In this particular instance it doesn't look like we'll charge anyone criminally," Veitch said. "We spoke with administrators and it seems like they'll take care of any disciplinary actions. We support whatever decision they have."

"Those students who were transported from campus in response to intoxication will have meetings with college administrators to determine the appropriate response to each situation," said Rochelle Calhoun, dean of Student Affairs. "Our responses will be guided by our Alcohol and Other Drugs policy and informed by the particular circumstances of each case."

Britt said rumors were circulating among the administration that some students were getting sick after drinking the caffeinated high-alcohol malt beverage Four Loko, and Campus Safety officers found empty Four Loko cans in the residence halls. Four Loko received national press in October after nine students at Central Washington University were hospitalized after drinking the beverage.

Near the campus, only the Getty convenience store on the corner of Clinton and Church St., and the Stewart's Shop by Route 50 and Route 9 sell Four Loko. Price Chopper and Stewart's Shop in downtown Saratoga Springs, along with Eddy'sBeverage Inc. on Excelsior Ave. do not carry Four Loko, but sell similar, caffeinated high-alcohol malt drinks, such as Joose.

"Four Loko sells much more than beer now," said Narinder Chopra, an employee at the Getty store.

While the 12 percent alcohol Four Loko is popular and more alcoholic than 4 to 5 percent alcohol beer, much higher percentage hard alcohol was involved, according to Campus Safety. Administrators and students believed that not one particular drink, rather the college drinking culture, is to blame for the widespread intoxication on Saturday night.

"I could say, ‘Hey, it was Four Loko,' but it's more like pick your poison," said Daniel Goodman '12, also known as DJ Ramses, who DJ'd Moorebid Ball. "Clearly it wasn't one drink… People get drunk because that's Moorebid"

"The failure of Saturday night was largely attributable to individual irresponsibility," Calhoun said. "We are reviewing logistical issues to address how we might better ensure a safe environment."

"Of course we have our code of conduct and of course we have our penalties and all of that going forward, but how do we change the culture?" said Vice-President for Academic Affairs Susan Kress, who is serving as acting-president with President Philip Glotzbach on sabbatical as of Nov. 1.

"How do we say to people, ‘Take care of your body, take care of your mind, be alive and awake and alert to what's happening. Don't you want to know what's going on? This is your life that's passing before you,'" she said.

"The student culture seems to tolerate and even celebrate horribly excessive consumption of alcohol and the wide variety of negative consequences that go along with that," said Jen Burden, Director of Health Promotions.

From 2 to 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 12, Burden is holding a "Red Watch Band" training, which will teach students CPR and how to handle alcohol emergencies. Students may register for the event on the Health Promotions website.

Moorebid Ball is an alcohol-free event. Drinking occurred before the event, most likely in the residences. Britt, Calhoun and Burden all said ‘pregaming,' or the act of drinking before an event, was a main reason for the high number of intoxicated students.

Ali Drucker '11, SGA vice president for Residential Affairs, was in charge of organizing Moorebid Ball with the Inner-Hall Board, which consists of residence hall presidents and vice presidents. She said that more resident and unit assistants in the residence halls are needed in future years to prevent drinking before the Moorebid Ball.

Moorebid Ball will not be cancelled in 2011, rather administrators will work on ways to improve safety around the event.

"The college campus won't cancel it," Britt said. "They'll just try to fix what they thought was wrong and it will be a little more controlled."

"The carnival-like atmosphere that is encouraged by Halloween is part of the issue," Calhoun said. "However, given that the point of the Ball is to celebrate Halloween, I think that we will be looking to address larger issues related to students' use and abuse of alcohol on our campus."

Britt said he is considering moving Moorebid Ball to a campus gym, which would have fewer areas for students to go missing or pass out.

While the hospitalizations cast a negative light on the 2010 Moorebid Ball, Britt, Burden and Calhoun saw positives in some student responses on Saturday night.

"I can't thank Campus Safety, Residential Life, Community First Responders and individual students who made the call to get help for their friends enough," Calhoun said.

Drucker spent the past six weeks and around 24 hours of her own time organizing the event with the IHB, and was regretful the event ended early because of the unsafe environment.

"I'm upset with how it ended," Drucker said. "1,000 people showed up and about 1 percent ended up in the hospital… Their decisions impacted everyone else."

"I'm proud of the work that the IHB did," she said. "We're going to work hard at ensuring a safer Junior Ring."

Goodman said that while his DJ set was successful, he saved his best material for the final hour between 1 and 2 a.m. Drucker, under the direction of Britt, told Goodman to stop playing at 1 a.m.

"I started off playing the music everyone wanted to hear, like the top 40's," Goodman said. "I saved my favorite, the more ‘dancy' house stuff' for the end… I put a lot of work into it and they never got to hear it."

Additional reporting by Katie Vallas and Gabe Weintraub

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