The opening dance party of the Underground suffered ìuncharacteristically disorderly conduct” from the students, said Julia Zimmer, assistant director of student activities. Several students were injured, including Undeground Manager Elizabeth Birchfield í11, whose rib was broken.
ìWe were prepared for the first week back, but we were not prepared for how many people showed up and how they acted,” said Birchfield. ìWe were shocked that they couldnít handle simple kindergarten rules like staying in line. It was like herding cattle.”
Doors opened at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28. Maximum capacity within the Underground was surpassed at 230 within a few hours. ìManagers couldnít get from the bar to the storage room by the entrance. I had to go between legs,” said Birchfield.†† Even after maximum capacity was reached, lines extended to Wagner Hall and students began to push to gain entrance. Students repeatedly ignored instructions to wait in line in an orderly fashion, said Abbas Sabur í11, inventory manager of the Underground.†† ìIn the end, there was a rush of people, things got out of hand, and we did what we were trained to do to maintain the situation,” said Sabur.† Birchfield and Sabur made the decision at this point to close the Underground an hour early. Campus security was called to handle specific instances and minimize conflicts with closing.
ìOnly disruptive people were escorted out,” said Zimmer. ìWe allowed others to finish their beverages.”
After notifying security, Birchfield informed a patron that he couldnít take his alcoholic beverage outside the facility. After failing to comply with either drinking it inside or disposing, Birchfield reached for the beverage and was elbowed by the patron, breaking her rib.
ìWe also heard of others injuring their noses and faces in the rush,” said Birchfield.
Zimmer noted that, contrary to student complaints, cover charges are not uncommon for the Underground.†† ìIn previous years, there was a cover charge intended for the U.G. dance parties, but technical difficulties with the cash register prevented charges last year,” said Zimmer, ìI didn’t think it was fair to start a cover charge in the middle of the year, so last year was free. The seniors and juniors should be familiar with this, though.”†† In their latest manager meeting, Zimmer, Birchfield and Sabur all discussed plans to make the Underground safer for future visits. Lines may be split between under and over 21 guests early on to ease entrance lines, and communication with the crowd will be increased, said Zimmer. Extra staff at the top and bottom of stairs may also be implemented.†† ìAll we need the students to do is follow the rules and be orderly and patient. If we have another Friday like last one, we may shut down the U.G. for a while until students can get their act together,” said Zimmer.
Birchfield said this could be enacted as early as next week if tonightís Underground Dance Party does not run more smoothly. ìThis week is their ëone last chanceí for following rules,” said Birchfield.†† Zimmer noted that she is willing to discuss individual cases from the previous week with any students who are interested.
ìThese are students working in the Underground, too, so please be patient,” said Zimmer.