As students walk past Campus Public Safety officers into the Multipurpose Room on a Saturday evening, fog and moisture pour out. To the left, a pack of students push together swaying to the music. The bass vibrates the walls of the University Center. Students weave through the sweat-drenched crowd trying to find friends in the dark. After a few minutes, it is unclear whether the sweat that seeped on to your clothes is your own or someone else’s.
This scene has been the source for many fun nights for the students of Pacific, but also a prime place for sexual harassment to take place.
“Sexual harassment was a big problem at the dances last year,” said the Activities and Cultural Events Board’s sound technician, Stephanie Spriggs. “I reported five people to CPS within two months last year.”
The Assistant Director of Student Activities and Multicultural Interests, Pete Erschen, elaborated on what students said about dances.
“Students felt unsafe because of how they were treated by other students,” said Erschen, clarifying he wasn’t talking about violence. “When students are drinking alcohol in tight quarters in a low-lit situation and they cant see who is coming up behind them or next to them, it creates a situation where quite frankly, if I were a student, I wouldn’t like our dances.”
Erschen said it could be inferred that he was talking about students’ sexual safety.
This year, dances at Pacific must strictly follow ten guidelines. These guidelines are being enforced to try and insure a safe environment and to cope with the mass number of students attending.
“There’s a lot more complexity behind it,” said Erschen.
The guidelines set by Director of the University Center and Student Activities Steve Klein and the members of ACE Board are as follows:
1. Communicate with CPS and ACE personnel prior to the event starting.
2. Order drinking water station from Dining Services for the dance.
3. Sponsoring group needs to be at the entrance for the entirety of the dance.
4. Club advisor should be in attendance unless arrangements have been made.
5. A CPS officer must be hired for dances.
6. No backpacks or bottles are allowed inside the dance.
7. If students appear faded ask them to leave and if they resist contact Campus Public Safety.
8. Sponsoring organization members should be in attendance and not have been consuming alcohol or drugs prior and during the event.
9. Work with ACE Board to return equipment to the sound closets.
10. Leave the venue the way you found it and please pick up all garbage.
Several factors were considered making these guidelines. Erschen said the main considerations were students’ personal safety and the legality with the number of people in the spaces being used.
Last year, the number of students who reported incidents where they felt unsafe at dances was enough for ACE Board to take this action.
“We are trying to increase positive experiences at our dance, by buying brand new lights that are brighter and still create a fun atmosphere, but where it’s bright enough that you can see the faces of the people around you,” said Erschen.
Eight new, state of the art lights were purchased by ACE Board to avoid the darkness at dances. These lights cost the group about $6,500.
“That cost is only for the lights,” said Spriggs. “Not for the cables, stands or anything else that goes with it.”
Erschen said this investment shows how dedicated ACE Board is to student’s personal safety.
“It’s important because if something really, really bad were to happen at a dance then that’s going to make it even more difficult to have a dance,” said Erschen.
The second main issue clubs and groups are facing on campus with hosting an event is space.
“We used to be able to do this, but this is new to us,” said Erschen. “It’s a different situation to have 1,600 students on any given night wanting to go to a dance.”
Residence Life, CPS and Student Activities decided dances would no longer be held in residence halls concluding it unfair to students living in the halls.
Also to comply with Oregon Fire Code laws, dances or large events can only be held in the UC dining area or the MPR. On Nov. 7, it was announced to Pacific that the Stoller Center gym would be able to be used for student events as well.
Those three spaces are the only viable places to host events for the whole student body.
“The lack of space we have makes it more challenging,” said Erschen.
Before the Stoller Center was approved, if all Pacific’s undergraduate students showed up for a dance, Erschen said Pacific could have been facing a lawsuit.
An increase in students attending Pacific has led to an increase of students attending events. In response, an increase in staffing is being required.
The advisor of the club or group hosting the dance must be present for the entirety of the dance.
At least one CPS officer must be present for the entirety of the dance as well. Also new this year, a student volunteer must be managing each available exit at the venue.
Even though the majority of students are adults, 18 years or older, Erschen said supervision is needed because of the issues occurring last year and the new amount of students attending dances. He also said in case CPS was called away, more supervision was needed.
Besides the worries of harassment and fire codes, a survey showed that students don’t want dances anyway.
The survey included the question, “You have a free weekend night with no studying. Please rank the activities you would rather go to.” The options included a dance, a concert, a movie, a comedian, a game, a student’s performance or a cultural event. Out of all activities, dances, games and cultural events were popularly ranked seventh, least wanted, from students. Dances were voted least wanted by 81 of the 330 students.
The top choices students wanted in order from first to third were a movie, a concert and a comedian.
Erschen said this was a clear sign that ACE Board needed to broaden their variety of activities.
But that’s not to say dances won’t still happen.
“My goal would be to improve the dances that we do have to make sure that they are a better experience for students,” said Erschen. “That means that students don’t miss them if we have one or two less a semester.”