The University Police Department has recently urged students to be cautious when leaving the campus due to a rise in reported partying-related incidents happening in Newark.
Earlier this month, University Police Chief Paul Cell sent an email to students about increased reports of events happening off-campus, particularly on Thursday nights, when scores of students leave campus to party at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), which concern the safety of Montclair State students.
Cell’s email identified events at fraternity houses and other non-university-affiliated locations near NJIT as the general area where these reported events in particular occurred. Cell also said that reported incidents included, “Accusations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, accusations of potential drugging via alcoholic beverages and transports to hospitals due to [overconsumption] of alcohol.”
Earlier this month, The Montclarion highlighted the Thursday night ritual – known to some as Thirsty Thursday – in which scores of Montclair State students ride the 9:09 p.m. train to Newark Broad Street Rail Station in search of parties on frat row at NJIT.
Cell’s email finished with two lists: one of safety tips that students can use when leaving campus and one with useful applications that students can use for planning their transportation both on and off campus and for contacting others when in unsafe situations.
Upon receiving Cell’s email, some students expressed concern on social media about the types of crimes that were reported and speculated that these increases in reported incidents might cause a police crackdown and more police surveillance on Thursday nights. One student posted a screenshot of Cell’s email on YikYak and wrote as a caption, “No more thirsty thursday thoties.”
Lt. Kieran Barrett, spokesperson of the University Police Department, made it clear that this email was not an indication that UPD would be altering their Thursday night patrol or cracking down on students who choose to travel to NJIT to have a good time off campus. “The email has the express intention to empower students to make informed decisions on their safety,” Barrett said in response to student reactions to Cell’s email. “Any assumption made from an email that was sent by the Chief of Police is just that: an assumption. We are very transparent with our community and there is no motive behind us hoping our students are safe.”
Barrett also said that sending out emails regarding safety on and off campus is regular procedure at Montclair State, although the timing of this particular mid-semester email was compelled by an increase in recently-reported off-campus incidents, including the case of alleged sexual assault, which took place at Newark Broad Street Rail Station in late September and led to the arrest of a student.
“We have seen no larger number of arrests at [Montclair State],” Barrett said with respect to these increased reports, “but we have had an increase of people coming to us to report incidents that occurred at other locations well off campus. The number and frequency of medical [reports] of students coming back intoxicated does cause us concern, as the timing of a medical emergency is not always known and if people wait to get back to [Montclair State], there is always a chance it can be life threatening.”
Another way that students can access helpful safety tips is by attending a new event sponsored by Residential Life: The Thursday 9:09, held weekly in Machuga Heights. The event takes its name from the 9:09 east bound New Jersey Transit train to Newark, said Community Director of Machuga Heights, Jaffir Abdul Rice. It began as an informal get-together where students going out on Thursday nights could grab some light refreshments and learn about staying safe when leaving the university.
In October, the event was officially branded and began being advertised on social media.
“We set up in the lobby and allow people to serve themselves,” said Rice, describing the atmosphere at the Thursday 9:09 each week. “The food is open to anyone. While people are eating, we offer resources – campus safety cards, links to University apps, the number to University Police, safe sex supplies – that they can take with them. We try to keep the event as informal as possible, but make ourselves available if anyone has specific questions.”
Rice compared the atmosphere of the Thursday 9:09 to its namesake, the actual train ride from Montclair State to NJIT. He said that students begin lining up as Machuga staff prepare the main walkway of the residence hall–The Promenade–for students passing by on their way to the train station. Often, these students begin striking up conversations with others at the event. “It really does feel like you are on a street or a platform waiting for a bus or a train. We think we really have been able to capture the essence of Montclair State, Machuga Heights and a trip on the train: a group of people who are connected through conversation and a shared experience.”
The cards handed out to students at the Thursday 9:09 are Red Hawk Safety Tip cards provided by Health Promotion, another department on campus who is trying to promote off-campus safety for students. Marie Cascarano, the department coordinator, said that the cards have been available to students for a few years, but have a new look, since Residence Life offered to have them professionally printed.
These cards are available at locations across campus and are part of a larger prevention and education initiative, according to Cascarano. “Health Promotion provides ongoing comprehensive education and prevention regarding alcohol and other drugs,” she said. “We know that Halloween, along with Spring Break, tends to be a time for students to engage in high risk behaviors. These safety cards were part of our awareness campaign on and around Halloween to help prevent and reduce risk for students.”
The safety tips will assist students in making smart decisions when they leave the boundaries of Montclair State. “We want people to have a good time and a safe time as well,” said Barrett. “If you are in danger or see someone else in danger, call for assistance wherever you are for prompt care.”