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Committee aims to redefine Spring Weekend

By Kim L. Wilson
On February 12, 2013

  • UConn officials and student representatives met on Tuesday to discuss plans to redefine Spring Weekend as a positive university event. Kim Wilson

Although police presence will be strong and non-student guests will be barred from residence and dining halls, the OOzeball mud volleyball tournament and other university-approved events will be revived this year during what was formerly known as Spring Weekend.
The Town and University Relations Committee discussed their plans to re-brand Spring Weekend by giving it a new name and gradually reducing campus restrictions over the next several years in a Tuesday meeting at the Audrey P. Beck Municipal Building.
"Spring Weekend has a whole connotation that will never disappear," said Mansfield Mayor Elizabeth Paterson. "We're trying to bring the weekend back in a gradual and managed way."
Several committee members agreed with Paterson that changing the name of Spring Weekend is a positive step in leaving the notoriety of the weekend in the past.
Since the Spring Weekend 2010 death of UConn student Jafar Karzoun, the university has eliminated Spring Weekend by disallowing campus events and guests, increasing police presence and closing campus buildings, including the Student Union and the Homer Babbidge Library.
The last weekend in April, which has historically been known as Spring Weekend, will have themed days with university-sponsored events designed to appeal only to students this year.
"We have a desire to simply open the door a crack," said Vice President of Student Affairs, John Saddlemire. "One of the things that bothered UConn students was the message of 'don't come to UConn because it's not safe here.'"
Thursday of Spring Weekend, April 26, will have a "UConn Learns" theme and will host a lecture and a movie screening on The Great Lawn. Friday will be called "UConn Serves," and will offer opportunities for students to assist with the campus beautification project. Saturday will bring the traditional OOzeball tournament.
Unlike in the past two years, The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and UConn athletics will be allowed to host events this Spring Weekend.
State troopers will be brought onto campus to patrol and monitor traffic again. Town and university staff will be paying particular attention to the Storrs Center area.
"We're still working with state police and the off-campus housing offices," said UConn Police Department Captain Hans Rhynhart. "Our approach will be similar to last year."
Undergraduate Student Government external affairs chair and committee member, Michael Daniels, said UConn's lockdowns for the past two years "reflects poorly" on the university and supports the university's decision to allow campus events this year.
Members of the committee agreed that it is time for university to begin a slow recovery from the trauma of the pre-2011 unruly, occasionally violent Spring Weekends.
"It will take a long time to get rid of the stigma," Saddlemire said. "It took eight years to get rid of 'The Jungle'," he added, alluding to the former nickname of North Campus residence halls, which were known for housing the rowdiest students on campus.
Michael Kirk, UConn Deputy Chief of Staff, said the university is in the beginning stages of transitioning Spring Weekend into what the university wants it to be.
"It will look a lot like last year and the year before," Kirk said. "What's being done differently this year are the student-oriented events."

By Kim L.

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