By Samantha van den Berg, Catherine Kelley, and Hannah Wilkes
For the past three years, University of Portland students have gathered together in a fit a celebration, pouring into a single street block near campus on the last day of finals.
Most of the current students have experienced the block party, and all those who haven’t have heard of it. One block, right off campus, crowded with students wielding open containers, embracing summer and drinking into the evening.
Now, after three years of shady success, the block party is officially no more, leaving the student body confused and disappointed.
According to Gerry Gregg, Director of Public Safety, the block party that UP students hold on to is no block party at all.
The City of Portland has a keen webpage on acquiring block party permits and, while it doesn’t offer a definition, some excerpts do lead on to what the city truly considers a block party.
Consider step number five of planning block parties:
“Make a list of food and items needed for your party. Perhaps you’d like to have an ice cream social, with each house bringing a different flavor. Or how about a barbecue with side dishes? A ‘white elephant’ gift exchange? A piñata for the kids? A finger-painting contest? A costume party?”
Perhaps shotgunning beers, straight shots, underage drinking and trashing the neighborhood wasn’t what the city had in mind when they permitted last year’s block party.
Gregg, having been at the University for three years, remembers each party. He remembers last year’s resulting in four students in the hospital and thousands of neighborhood damages that struck a chord with the neighborhood association.
Gregg says, “People who are in no way associated with the University just started showing up. It is completely uncontrolled; it’s too ripe with opportunity for something bad to happen”.
Safety is the primary concern for the University, despite student efforts and protests.
Though the block party is a new sensation for the University, there has always been an end of year event, end of year controversy, or an end of year expression of college students being college students.
Below is a brief timeline through the recent years of end of year events:
In light of the absence of the block party this year, students have begun to wonder what to expect for their typical pre-summer bash.
Though emails have been sent and Facebook events have been made, rumors of a new block party and confusion about the multitude of events occurring on the last day of school have left students in a place of longing and confusion.
We went around campus and interviewed various students to get an idea of how they feel about the end of year events leading into finals week.
So this leads us to the obvious question: What exactly is happening on Thursday?
For one, Anchor’s Away is returning for its second year on the Bluff. From 4:30pm to 7:30pm, students, staff, and faculty will gather on the Bluff for beer, music, games and dinner catered by Bon Appetit.
Anchor’s Away, hosted by CPB, is established enough that the confusion does not reside with this event, rather the new event, Last Thursday.
When UP senior, Conor O’Hagen, began the process of getting a permit for this year’s block party, he received an insatiable response: in order for students to acquire a permit from the city this year, they would need to get approval from Public Safety and the University Park Neighborhood Association, as well as need insurance to cover any damages.
And such, Conor started to seek out other options. When he spoke to Gerry Gregg, he referred him to Tyler Zimmerman, the Office of Student Activities’ Late Night Program Coordinator.
Together with fellow UP senior, Peter Luciano, the three organized a new event to be held on campus, called Last Thursday; however, Last Thursday is not the new block party.
To be held on Prusynski Pitch, also known as the turf field, between 7:00pm and 10:00pm on April 30th, the new event will feature three artists/DJs, games, and inflatables.
Conor says, “We never wanted it on campus. I had a vision of what I thought this was going to be and had to change my expectations every step of the way.”
While the students pushed for alcohol to be served, according to Tyler Zimmerman, the University cannot serve alcohol for six hours straight and beer will already be provided at Anchor’s Away earlier that day.
Conor, albeit disappointed, is happy to have tried to put together something for the students. He admits kids just want to get drunk, and though the block party has only occurred for the last three years, they hold onto it for this reason.
Even so, he says, “Everyone is able to come together at the block party, no cliques or anything, just everyone in the streets.”
He hopes this new event, free of controversy, will be well taken by the student body. Last Thursday is not the new block party, but it is an opportunity for students to come together, and hopefully stay safe.