Students didn’t have to wait until they got to Coconut Grove to face mad crowds clad in outrageous costumes-or next to nothing at all-on the night of Halloween.
Three coach shuttles, each with a capacity of 53 people, began picking up students from Stanford Circle to enjoy the festivities in the Grove around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
In less than a half an hour, the situation began to get out of hand.
A few days earlier, the Dean of Students office, which runs the free shuttle service for students, asked the Student Government Executive Board to help supervise the efforts.
“Basically it was just unbelievable,” said John Constantinide, speaker of the SG Senate. “Even with six SG officers and three [Public Safety] officers, people were rushing the bus. We were trying to get people, one-at-a-time, in the bus.”
Brandon Gross, speaker pro-tempore of the Senate, said there were more than 300 students at the peak time, around 10:30 p.m. Many of them were visibly intoxicated.
When a bus stopped short of the crowd, students flocked to the vehicle, with the two officers present following to maintain order.
Overwhelmed and forced against the bus by students, one male officer blew his whistle and yelled at the students to move back, soon drawing his Taser in an attempt to restore order.
Several students engulfed in the horde, such as sophomore Asleigh Hackey, said they saw a light and heard a distinctive Taser sound, which Gross said acted as warnings.
Blair Brettschneider, a freshman, said she also saw and heard the same. Neither saw any one being Tasered.
The Miami Hurricane was unable to corroborate any rumors that students were Tasered. SG members on the scene, as well Public Safety and university administrators categorically denied any one was Tasered.
“The Taser was taken out and armed so the students could be cleared,” Constantinide, said. “[The officers] basically had to protect themselves. I don’t think they were going to shoot it anyway, it’s just a matter of trying to clear the crowd.”
Within minutes, more Public Safety officers arrived on the scene.
Ryan Ceresani, a freshman who dressed as Tom Hanks’ character from the movie “Cast Away”, witnessed the mayhem.
“Soon as the first charter bus came people bum-rushed it,” he said, adding the SG members trying to keep order were doing a good job.
Lt. Bill Gerlach, the ranking Public Safety official on the scene after the incident, said that no arrests were made or citations given for alcohol violations.
Maj. David Rivero, the new director of Public Safety, suggested that it would have been better to start the shuttles earlier to better stagger the numbers.
“We didn’t think that the buses were going to take so long, which led to the frustration,” he said regarding the long intervals between the coaches arriving to pick up students.
Rivero said that the first two trips went smoothly.
“Any time you have large crowds like that you’re caught off guard,” he said. “Next year we’ll have more cops to be on the safe side.”
Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for student affairs, said that there was one stop for each of the three shuttles – University Village, Dickinson Circle and Stanford Circle – but people amassed at the latter.
“We wanted to make sure the problem was manageable,” he said regarding having three different stops. He added, “I was honestly disappointed because the students were unruly.”
Administrators and Public Safety officials plan to meet in the near future to discuss what action will be taken and what changes will occur for Halloween next year.
“We’re going to look at all possible solutions,” said Richard Walker, assistant vice president for student affairs, who was one of the first administrators on the scene. “I think people did what they could, considering the circumstances.”
Walker and Rivero both said all options are on the table, even the possibility of not running the shuttles for next Halloween.
Arias and Walker, as well as Dean of Students Ricardo Hall arrived on the scene after being called at home.
Tara Winston, a sophomore dressed as a school girl, thinks the university should have expected the crowds.
“I feel like they should have known that we need more buses than they provided,” she said. “Now people are driving there, which is really unsafe because most of the people out here have been drinking and now they’re getting in their cars, trying to get down there, and it’s not a good situation.”
But SG members on the scene as well as administrators cited a number of other factors, not a lack of preparedness, which led to the breakdown of order. For instance, traffic being backed up for blocks on U.S. 1, how crowded the Grove became and the fact that people from Dickinson and the Village were coming to Stanford Circle all contributed to the situation.
“Nobody expected it,” Gross said. “Things change and we need to adapt.”
For updates, please visit www.thehurricaneonline.com. Greg Linch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.