With the academic year nearing its end, the annual Tour de Franzia is surely on many students’ minds. Despite student excitement for the annual debauched scavenger hunt, administrators, Public Safety (PSafe), and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) have begun taking steps to limit the Tour. These attempts began with Vice President for Student Affair Mike Whaley’s March 8 email to the student body in which he called upon students to not participate in the Tour because of safety concerns.
“[The email] particularly articulates what our concerns are with the event,” Whaley said. “Since last spring, I’ve been talking with different student groups, in particular with the WSA, about what to do about it. Everyone with whom I’ve spoken tends to understand and agree with the set of concerns and shares at least in part my concern about student safety.”
Whaley discussed imposing harsher sanctions such as suspension against all participants. Though he stated that he had no intention of instituting these harsher rules in 2012, he speculated that they might be necessary in the future.
“Another option was to try to document as many people as we could and then issuing strong sanctions like suspension to try to dissuade people from participating in it,” Whaley said. “That approach to me felt like it should be a last resort. But if the Tour happens this spring and if there’s the same level of mayhem associated with it, then I think for next year we are going to have to go with a more harsh approach to the event.”
Many students, including members of the WSA, have opposed any attempt to institute these much harsher sanctions. Some students have hypothesized that such an attempt might create more problems than it would solve.
“Most people on the Assembly would oppose that initiative,” said WSA Student Affairs Committee Chair Andrew Trexler ’14. “The general feeling is that there would be a blowback to those methods which would be greater than the problems we have now, or at least that that is a significant possibility.”
In the past, so many students was sent to the Middlesex Regional Hospital that Dean of Students Rick Culliton was notified there were no more room at the hospital. Additionally, several cases of vandalism, including broken windows, have happened during the Tour. Whaley argued that as it exists now, Tour de Franzia could result in tragedy.
“It only takes one team of people drinking a lot of alcohol to have somebody die from alcohol poisoning or run out into the middle of the street in a drunken state and get hit by a car,” Whaley said. “Lots of us share this concern.”
Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer frankly echoed this sentiment.
“I hope we can control this before someone gets killed,” he said.
One suggestion has been for the administration to sponsor the Tour as it does with Spring Fling. The administration attempted this in 2009 by working with the organizers of the Tour. However, after the event resulted in several cases of vandalism, the administration demanded that the student organizers pay for the damages, even though these students had not specifically caused the damage. Subsequent tours have been organized secretly by students, which has prevented cooperation between students and faculty.
Whaley also argued that any faculty sponsorship of the Tour could be seen as condoning an illegal event.
“The problem with [managing the event] is that it’s by its nature illegal and unsafe,” Whaley said. “You have high levels of intoxication, drunk people running across city streets and falling and all kinds of things. We can’t just suspend all of our policies; there’s a lot of underage people who participate in it, everybody who participates in it is violating Middletown’s ordinance against open containers and public consumption. So managing the event isn’t really an option. By managing the event we seem to be condoning it.”
Members of the WSA have begun working with the Peer Health Advocates (PHA), a group of students who work to address various health issues on campus. They hope to establish a bystander intervention program during the Tour in order to help any students with health problems.
“Some people from the assembly will be teaming with the PHA’s to try to do some bystander intervention, for people who are passed out on the sidewalk,” Trexler said. “It will not be us trying to police other students.”
PSafe also plans to change its policy from previous years by focusing more on documenting participants in the Tour by extensively videotaping the event. Any student identified during the event will likely be sent to the Student Judicial Board (SJB), depending on their violation. Whaley asserted that this year the SJB would impose harsher sanctions against students.
“Individuals identified will be sentenced to the Judicial Board for violations,” Meyer said. “I expect not only this year the Public Safety personnel to be out there, but I expect to get some support from some other offices. We will find out what night it is. I know a lot of students think it’s harmless and all in good fun, but it has to be brought under control.”
Despite being one of the most highly anticipated student events at the University, Whaley remained hopeful that one of these ideas could help bring an end to Tour de Franzia.
“I’d be thrilled if the event didn’t happen,” Whaley said. “But being realistic about it, I’m hoping many fewer students will participate in it this year. I think that many folks understand the dangers associated with drinking that much and then running around campus or running around campus while you’re drinking that much. That’s my hope.”