Amherst and UMass party problems

A new report examining what went wrong at the so-called Blarney Blowout parties in Amherst last March faults both the University of Massachusetts for failing to recognize the potential for things to get out of hand and the town of Amherst’s police for the premature use of pepper spray to disperse crowds.

The report came as a result of an investigation conducted by former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis.

Dozens of people, including some students, were arrested and four police officers suffered minor injuries when alcohol-fueled pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebrations got out of control in several areas around town and revelers threw bottles and snowballs.

Davis’ 65-page report, while noting that such problems are not unique to UMass, said town police were ‘‘overwhelmed and unprepared.’’

The aim of the report was not to apportion blame, but to find solutions, Davis said, but in doing so, it was important to figure out what went wrong before working on solutions.

‘‘During this event, there was a clear lack of coordination, communication and collaboration among and between law enforcement agencies, UMass Amherst and the Town of Amherst,’’ the report said. ‘‘The police response, including the donning of riot helmets and the use of chemical munitions, had the effect of creating confusion and perpetuating the unruly behavior of the crowds.’’

The university failed to see warning signs, including an unusually high number of guests checking into dorms, long lines at area liquor stores, and social media buzz, the report said.

The report said the university needs to do more to address alcohol abuse.

The report recommended putting an end to the annual celebration, which is not sanctioned by the university, but stopping student groups from promoting it and working with liquor store and bar owners.

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Amherst Town Manager John Musante say they are taking seriously the report’s recommendations for avoiding similar problems in the future.

‘‘We are in agreement on its major recommendations and are committed to moving forward together,’’ Musante said.

Subbaswamy said in March that the event had ‘‘brought shame’’ on the university.

‘‘UMass Amherst and the town must jointly pursue community-wide strategies to deter high-risk drinking, improve social settings for students and adopt best practices in law enforcement,’’ the chancellor said.


Unfortunately, serious injuries can and do occur on college campuses or at other sporting or concert events due to a combination of excessive alcohol use and uncontrolled crowds or other unchecked behavior.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident, it is possible that the injured party may have a viable claim for negligent security against the school or venue where the incident occured. Negligent security claims can result from having a lack of trained security personnel, bad lighting, poor security systems or having inadequate security programs in place.

The rule in Massachusetts is that a possessor of land used for business purposes is obligated to use reasonable care to prevent injury to members of the public while they are on the land for business purposes. This includes injuries caused by the accidental, negligent, or intentional acts of third persons. Restatement (Second) of Torts, sec. 344 (1965).

Common carriers (i.e., train or bus companies), landlords, bars and other businesses, colleges and even hospitals have been liable for a failure to foresee that their patrons, tenants, students, or patients could suffer criminal attacks by third persons. Husband v. Dubose, 26 Mass. App. Ct. 667 (1988).

Call a Boston Negligent Security Attorney at the Law Office of Curran & Desharnais, P.C. Today at 781-618-3197 or 1-888-682-9194 to discuss your case.

Source of Report:

excessive force, Massachusetts Dram Shop Attorney, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, wrongful death

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