PCP (Palm Court Party) is known to be a staple of New College culture. Over the years, the event, which occurs three times per year, has become legend for the Sarasota-Bradenton community. Leading up to this most recent PCP, there were rumors that faculty and staff were concerned about the safety of late night events and were considering putting restrictions on Walls and PCP – possibly banning them altogether.
Dean of Student Affairs Tracy Murry quelled the rumors joking that, “If anyone on staff was planning on shutting down the parties, they haven’t told me about it!” This misinformation may have stemmed from Murry’s recent motion to create a committee to help make events such as PCP and Walls safer.
“The point of this group is not to look at, for example, when events start when they end, it’s not looking at underage drinking or open container, it’s just looking at how do we reduce or remove the really dangerous types of behavior,” Murry said. He aims to do this by focusing on three primary concerns: sexual assault, drug abuse and noise complaints. “I think if we can solve those three issues, that would eliminate most of the problems that people have with events.”
All this aside, the economic issues of cop overtime hours do pose a threat to the longevity of late night events. Currently, overtime charges are being drawn from the campus police’s allotted fund. Chief of Police Michael Kessie discussed how he and his staff do not feel comfortable continuing to pay for these charges.
“I think that if we want to have officers stay over and we want to tell them that you’re going to have to work overtime, then somebody needs to be paying for that and I don’t see why that has to come out of my budget for a non-emergency,” Kessie said.
The total amount of overtime costs for events in 2012 was relatively small, about $1266.40. Last year’s expenditure was even smaller, totaling $449.23. With less stress on the budget, Kessie would like to use this extra money to aid in keeping the campus safe and secure by providing resources for future investigations and having a cushion in case of emergency situations.
The campus police have to not only provide security for the New College campus, but for the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus as well. Though Kessie was clear that he has no interest in shutting down Walls and PCPs, he does not feel like these parties are a good use of his monetary resources.
“In a time where we are looking for every dollar and trying to be more frugal, it somehow is not working out to make sense to me to pay for this type of thing out of our funds,” he said.
Recent incidences during the 2013 Valentine’s Day PCP and the last Halloween PCP were what propelled Murry to pitch the idea of a committee to the New College Student Alliance (NCSA). He discussed how events with a large gathering of people where alcohol and drugs may be present promote a greater number of incidences of drug abuse and sexual assault and, therefore, the community needs to take action to combat these issues. Due to Title IX advancements, people are becoming more educated about sexual abuse, which Kessie thinks may lead to more reported assaults.
“We are going to have more complaints and more people actually reporting crimes which is fantastic, but for our staffing we are going to have to be ready for the fact that we may have to spend a lot more time doing these investigations and that to me is much more important than a party,” he explained.
Both Murry and Kessie were firm on the fact that events such as PCP and Walls do not cause assaults and drug abuse, they just create an environment in which these issues are more likely to occur. Murry explained that it is not the event that needs to be changed but rather more education and awareness needs to implemented in order to prevent these problems.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of [Walls and PCP], and I don’t think we want to get rid of them necessarily, but I think they are regulating themselves,” Murry said. “The number of noise complaints that we’re having I think is showing student dissatisfaction not faculty dissatisfaction.”
Kessie also cited on-campus noise complaints as becoming a serious problem for future Walls. In 2012, there were only 39 complaints, while in 2013 there were 72. This year, there have already been 18 reported noise complaints in just the last two months. According to Kessie, NCF is statistically on track for 108 noise complaints for 2014. Both Kessie and Murry voiced that they do not believe that all the noise complaints the police receive are legitimate.
“Students have said to me that a lot of people they know are going around saying ‘I don’t like the person hosting this Wall, watch this’ or ‘I don’t like the music they are playing, I’m going to have this shut down’ – they aren’t calling in legitimate noise complaints,” Murry said. “That’s the system that we created. If we have a better system with accountability, false noise complaints would not be a factor. I’ve heard administrators say ‘If you are getting tired of the Wall, just pick up the phone, wait ten minutes and call a second noise complaint’ whether it is legit or not because that will get it shut down.”
Kessie communicated the same concerns, though he stated that this was only speculatory and that he had no evidence to defend these claims. No matter if the complaints are real or not, the police department has to take all of them seriously.
Fortunately, this past Valentine’s Day PCP was cited by both Murry and Kessie as being the calmest PCP they can remember. Not a single student was hospitalized, arrested, referred or Baker Acted.
“I think Tracy is on the right track here, and, as a community I think we can probably solve this,” Kessie said on a final note.