Block Party draws smaller crowd

U.Va. sponsored events encouraged alternatives to “hazardous” party

nswertlandblockpartylaurenhornsby

The Wertland Block Party is not sanctioned by the University. 

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

Block Party attendance has gone down from last year — and the behavior of attendees has generally improved, although the number of summonses increased from the 2015 Block Party, according to the Charlottesville Police Department.

The event — which takes place on Wertland Street and is not sanctioned by the University — has been held annually on move-in weekend.

According to a press release from the Charlottesville police, two custodial arrests were made for underage possession, using a fake ID and obstruction.

Police say 19 summonses were issued for offenses such as underage possession, open container, littering and urinating in public. Officers also gave eight warnings for open container and urinating in public, and two rescue assist calls were made.

The number of warnings decreased from last year’s 24, and fewer rescue assist calls were made compared to the 13 calls in 2015.

The number of summonses increased this year, however. Last year, only two summons were issued.

Charlottesville Police Lt. Steve Upman attributed the increase number summonses to increased enforcement efforts by patrol officers.

“Our enforcement efforts were increased to ensure that those attending were safe and did not make poor decisions that could hurt them in their future endeavors,” Upman said. “Problems were addressed early on to ensure the event went smoothly and safely for all.”

The University Police Department issued seven summonses, all for underage possession of alcohol, according to Captain Don McGee. All were released after the summonses were issued.

In addition to the fewer warnings and rescue assist calls, the Charlottesville Police Department noticed an overall improvement in crowd behavior at this year’s party.

Attendees of the party “stayed inside property lines and did not cause congestion in the sidewalk and street areas,” according to the press release.

This year’s Block Party had an increased police presence, with approximately 40 total officers patrolling from both the Charlottesville Police Department and the University Police Department, Upman said. Only 13 officers were present last year.

Graphic By Kriti Sehgal

The University made several efforts to deter students from attending Block Party.

At the peak of the party, the estimated number of people in attendance was approximately 4,000, a decrease from last year’s 6,000.

Several emails and messages were sent to students and parents in the weeks leading up to the event from University President Teresa Sullivan, Dean of Students Allen Groves and Athletic Director Craig Littlepage to discourage students from attending Block Party and opting for events on Grounds instead.

“This environment can be hazardous for students, especially for those who are new to U.Va. and new to college,” Sullivan wrote to the parents of first-year students.

Sullivan noted some of the unsafe behaviors that occur at Block Party in her email to the parents of second-year students, citing underage drinking, excessive drinking and drug use.

Littlepage encouraged student-athletes not to attend the event, reminding them to put themselves and their teammates in a position to be at their best every day.

“Student-athletes stand out in social settings,” Littlepage wrote. “It's easy for you to be noticed and even targeted at times.”

These messages came following a Washington Post article that detailed an alleged sexual assault at Block Party in 2015.

The article shared the story of third-year College student and volleyball player Haley Lind, who said she was assaulted by a male athlete at a stranger’s house. Both Lind and the alleged assaulter were drunk at the time of the alleged assault.

An investigation ultimately concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine that the athlete had assaulted Lind.

In order to provide an alternative event for students to attend, University Programs Council sponsored a concert at John Paul Jones Arena with famous rapper J. Cole headlining. IM-Rec Sports and U.Va. Dining also sponsored “After-Hours at the AFC” which featured free pizza and inflatables.

Chi Alpha, an on-Grounds Christian organization, hosted its annual “Something in a Mug Party” on Saturday. This event has been held for over a decade to provide students with an alternate social opportunity on the Saturday of move-in weekend.

“If students think the Block Party is their only opportunity to socialize and experience college life on their first night, then that’s where they will go,” Josh Fairchild, a Chi Alpha staff member, said. “Our goal with the mug party is simply to give students a safe alternative that they will enjoy.”

Approximately 1050-1200 students attended this year’s mug party, Fairchild said.

Fairchild said he believes the event helped deter people from attending Block Party, and that Chi Alpha is glad to “provide a safe and fun environment for students to meet one another on their first night on Grounds.”

Groves expressed his pleasure and gratitude for the alternative programming that occurred on Saturday night in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily.

"The University is pleased with the student attendance at the alternative programming events scheduled on Saturday evening,” Groves said. “There was very strong student attendance at the J Cole concert in JPJ Arena, and the other events at Lambeth, AFC and the Chi Alpha sponsored-event on Stadium Road were also well attended. Our student leaders coordinated these events, and we are very grateful for their efforts in organizing these alternatives for our student body.”

related stories