By: Meredith Whelchel – Managing Editor – Sarah Devine – Asst. News Editor
What many local media organizations are calling a “riot,” University of Dayton students and some officials are calling a safe celebration, for the most part.
An estimated 1,500 UD students gathered in the Ghetto following a 55-53 win against Syracuse University in Buffalo, N.Y. Saturday night, said UD chief of police Bruce Burt. As seen across social media platforms, students chanted and cheered as they celebrated the Flyers’ victory and move into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
University of Dayton Public Safety and Dayton Police Department officers arrived on scene shortly after the Flyers juiced the Orange to ensure students celebrated in a safe manner, Burt said. Officers were dressed in “personal protective gear” and stood for four hours in the streets until students dispersed at 1 a.m.
“The concern is creating a balance between celebration and safety,” Burt said. “I want to celebrate as well, I’m a huge Flyers fan, but students start crossing the line when they throw objects like beer cans, light fires, and jump on cars.”
Burt said he was displeased students had resorted to burning furniture, a “tradition” which frequently occurred during celebratory moments in the past.
“Arson is not a tradition,” he said. “We just don’t tolerate it.”
There were at least five minor injuries with one person transported to the hospital, according to an official statement released by the university Sunday. Celebrations ended for five participants, four of which were UD students, when they were arrested on scene, Burt said.
“There are a small number of people facing consequences for their actions on Saturday night – whether it be throwing objects, damaging property, etc.,” Burt said. “But I think we’ve been clear this year that we will not tolerate unsafe behavior in the community.”
UD President Dan Curran, who crowd-surfed and posed in numerous student “selfies,” sent an email to students Monday expressing his “disappointment” with irresponsible celebratory behavior.
“As a whole, I think it was a very positive event and I had a lot of fun,” Curran said. “It started concerning me when bottles were thrown and as outside community members starting coming in.”
He said he appreciated students stepping in to intervene when issues arose as he celebrated in the Ghetto for two hours.
Assistant dean of students Chris Schramm said she wouldn’t call Saturday’s events a “riot,” but more of a celebratory event.
“We couldn’t be more excited and proud of our men’s basketball team,” she said. “What happened on Saturday was the result of the community wanting to be together – like St. Patrick’s Day.”
Katie Gaugler, a freshman accounting major, said she felt Saturday night showed support for the team.
“Saturday night will be one of my favorite memories of the year,” Gaugler said. “The students showed a lot of spirit and support, and I loved how quickly all of us were able to come together to celebrate such a big win for the basketball team.”
One student said he felt the celebrations on Saturday night happened for a good reason.
“So many people I know, from relatives to friends at other schools, are rallying behind the Flyers,” Tim Carroll, a senior English major, said. “Even sweeter though is that Flyer-faithful who have stood by this team for years finally have our moment in the spotlight. As a senior graduating in May, I could not have dreamed a better exclamation point to round out what has been four wonderful years at UD.”
Gabe Macis, a senior accounting major and a resident of Kiefaber Street, said he felt “riot” wasn’t the correct way to describe Saturday night.
“I don’t think it was too out of control,” he said. “I don’t think it was a “riot,” it was just all the UD students coming together and celebrating a special moment. From what I know and saw the only reason why people got in trouble was because the police instigated it. It’s a shame because some people were having a responsible, good time.”
Burt said he’s hopeful students will celebrate responsibly as the Flyers take on Stanford University Thursday in Memphis.
“We are all hoping for a win, but I’m not hoping for another repeat of Saturday night,” Burt said. “It’s not going to happen. At the first sign of property damage, fire or unsafe celebration, it will be shut down.”
Burt added they will be maximizing staffing on Thursday and coordinating efforts with DPD. S1 and S2 lots will be open beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday should students want to move their cars to a safe location, he said.
In preparation for Thursday, Schramm said Welcome Arena will be rented out to “facilitate and foster” a safe way to celebrate the game. She said transportation will also be available.
Burt said alcohol will not be available at the arena, which can contribute to unsafe behavior.
“What’s better than watching the game together? That’s honestly part of the fun,” Scrhamm said. “Students get excited and we love that. March Madness is named pretty appropriately.”
Curran agreed it would be a great opportunity to share in the community spirit.
“I just think it would be so cool to be able to watch the game in the arena,” he said. “It would really be a great event for the community, and one that would be only for the University of Dayton community.”
Curran, who will be out of the country during the game, said he’s optimistic about Thursday – both the outcome of the game and student response.
“I, of course, want to wish the best of luck to our men’s basketball team…I know they’ll do a great job,” Curran said. “And I know no matter the outcome of that game, I trust our students will celebrate responsibly.”