Photo Credit Lucy Waskiewicz for Flyer News
Charley Lustig | Opinions Editor
To say UD students were excited about returning to campus this fall would certainly be an understatement. Freshman students came in with their fists pumping, eager to begin their college experience. Returning students were also enthusiastic as they were ready to be reunited with friends and jump back into their routines.
In honor of students’ homecoming and Labor Day’s long weekend, a social media-advertised “block party” was in order. The word spread in hopes of a large turnout like previous gatherings held on the streets of the south student neighborhood.
“Block parties,” or “night drinks,” are large-scale events where UD students typically gather in a designated street at night to party. The Labor Day weekend block party has been a recurring event for the last few years.
One UD senior defined block parties as “a lighthearted, fun way to see all of your friends!”
Students living both on and off campus participate in these events. It’s an opportunity for them to gather on the grounds of campus, make friends, discover themselves, and even network with their fellow students. The possibilities are endless.
Considering that block parties take place on UD property, there is this underlying expectation that they’re only for UD students to participate and socialize amongst each other. There is a shared sense of pride and security among Flyers.
Many students describe UD as a “home away from home.” Both in residence halls and student neighborhood houses, students are given the opportunity to make themselves comfortable on campus with the assurance that UD will be dependable and provide safety.
But as block parties evolve, students have begun to feel less safe on campus. When asked about the recent Labor Day weekend block party, one senior was hesitant.
“This experience has made me wary of traveling alone at night, even within the campus and neighborhood, and it has made me more nervous for future block parties than I was before,” she said.
But what happened this past Labor Day weekend?
What Happened September 3, 2023?
In the days leading up to Labor Day weekend, a social media account not affiliated with UD began advertising a weekend block party on Kiefaber Street in the south student neighborhood. While the account is marketed toward UD students, it’s public, allowing anyone to view its profile and see posts about past and future events. It is no surprise that the block party’s advertising was seen as an invitation to all: both UD students and locals alike.
Anticipation vibrated off the grounds of campus as students waited for night to blanket the sky and for people to finally gather. A first year student was jumping with anticipation. She had heard about the university’s history of block parties.
“I just knew they were fun and that they were big at Dayton,” she said.
As she walked over, a feeling of uneasiness swept over her and her friends.
“I was comfortable until I realized that most people there weren’t students,” she said. “I was thinking ‘Why are they here?’ and ‘I don’t know them.’ I knew that the area around campus isn’t always the safest at night so it kinda freaked me out.”
Still wanting to take part in campus traditions and immerse herself with fellow students, the first year and her friends ventured further into the gathering. She recalled noticing that, “The whole street was kind of filled but there were clumps. There were gaps between students and locals.”
Suddenly, she saw a group of students sprint toward one of the houses on the street. She said they jumped into the bushes as if they were trying to hide.
“The whole area just started splitting. The guys next to us started saying ‘Someone has a gun! Someone has a gun!’” she said.
That was when a frenzy began.
“I saw the guy, that supposedly had a gun, go run to the curb and pick something up and put it in his pocket,” she said. “Then a bunch of people started going at him and there was a bunch of fighting.”
Fortunately, the freshman and her group left shortly after the mayhem started.
But not all had the choice to leave the street and return home. One senior who lives on Kiefaber Street was taken back with the block party’s events. She recalled that their home had suddenly turned into a place of refuge for students trying to escape the chaos.
“Everyone crammed into our house. Some people decided to go outside again, but my roommates and I decided to stay in. Maybe about 30 minutes after the cops started to show up and eventually they forced people to leave.”
The student said police used pepper balls to evacuate the street. But the substance did more than simply clear the space— “Something that the cops were shooting got into the first floor of our house and it was hard to breathe that night,” she said.
Clearly, this block party affected even those who weren’t fully participating in the event. The residents of Kiefaber Street remained, unfairly, in the crossfire of these events and suffered the consequences including both pepper ball residue and large amounts of trash left by participants.
With so much occurring, it is difficult to draw a clear depiction of what exactly happened at the Labor Day block party on Kiefaber Street. The only thing that can be agreed upon is that the night went much differently from what students expected.
The Impact on Students
While block parties have gone haywire in the past, this particular event left an unsettling taste in the mouths of UD students. Even a private Facebook group for UD parents had blown up with questions and concerns regarding what had occurred that night.
The participation of Dayton locals at UD’s block parties is nothing new. They often have joined in with students on the grounds of the University. Yet, locals’ behavior and actions this time around shook up many students.
“I think that the recent block party started out pretty similar to other block parties I’ve attended, but the emotional environment of the situation after the main event occurred in the street was unlike anything I’ve experienced at UD,” a senior said, “A lot of people were terrified because of the mention and sighting of a gun, but some people just wanted to continue the party as if nothing happened. The whole situation got very muddled.”
Another senior confessed, “This is the most scared I’ve ever felt. Many friends in this situation were completely distraught and didn’t know what to do.”
The fearful atmosphere was acknowledged by UD’s first years as well, one who admitted, “It really opened my eyes to how it could have been really dangerous for me. It should have been taken way more seriously than it was by some of the students.”
Unfortunately, there still remains a large portion of students who are desensitized to the possibility that could have been in danger. Sept. 3 should serve as a wake-up call for UD students. Safety should always be the priority at these functions.
Who is to Blame for the Mess of the Labor Day Block Party?
Is there someone to blame for the mess that occurred that Labor Day weekend? Or do all parties share responsibility for creating the chaos?
Those questions are still in debate.
One senior felt strongly against locals participating in these events.
“I believe that, because this is a college campus, only UD kids should be allowed,” she said.
There are many students who blame the behaviors and actions of Dayton’s locals for the block party’s unraveling. They say it was locals participating in the fighting and allegedly bringing a weapon onto school grounds.
However, there are those who believe that students should be held accountable too.
“I think the UD also needs to recognize that it’s not just locals ruining the block parties,” a junior said. “I feel like they don’t recognize students’ role in them because they don’t want it to look bad for them. One student and one non-student were arrested at the block party, but all I’m hearing about is how locals ruined it.”
Oftentimes, the college experience can bring forth recklessness from students. They behave in ways that may not positively reflect on UD. This has been shown in past large-scale events like the annual St. Patrick’s Day “day drink”, where students have turned over vehicles and burned furniture.
A senior mentioned that more responsiveness was needed from both UD and Public Safety.
“I wish what the university did was send out campus-wide texts to tell us what is happening,” she said. “One of my friends called Public Safety to ask what we should do and they basically said that they couldn’t give us any advice.”
Others were also disappointed in the lack of communication and transparency.
“I think that UD did the best that they could given the situation, but the delay of information and the police at the party were concerning,” a senior said. “I understand they need to cover their bases before saying anything, but transparency is something that is needed in situations to keep students in the know.”
It seems that all parties may have contributed to the block party’s spiral: students, locals, Public Safety, and even UD.
What is the future of “block parties?”
Block parties can be some of the most fun and memorable college moments for students. It is unlikely that they will end anytime soon.
While some students hesitate about appearing in future gatherings, many say they will more than likely partake in them again.
Although it might be impossible to keep these block parties “students only,” especially due to public social media accounts and endless tunnels of communication, hopefully, students will be more aware and cautious when entering these events in the future.
It is important that the mindset “it won’t happen to me” is kept at bay. Unfortunately, many with the same mindset are caught in some of the most disastrous situations.
As far as UD’s future involvement, as well as that of other enforcement and safety agencies, there is hope that there will be improvement. This especially translates into providing the clearest forms of communication and the most ethical safety measures for students, campus, locals, and themselves.
Be Safe, Flyers, and Stay Fly.
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