By Charles Wilhelm
From midday until dusk, in the shadow of LaValle Stadium, students prepared themselves for the big Homecoming game.
Red solo cups filled every underage hand and barbeques littered the parking lot. Women danced on truck beds and fraternities let forth music from large sets of speakers. Early in the day, the sun beat down on the asphalt and the seemingly thousands of students covering it. From car to car and into the walkways, sometimes the only things visible were the sweaty heads of the tailgate.
On the outskirts of the students, on every corner of the lot, stood uniformed UPD officers. Officers, families, alumni and locals joined in with the fun, in a much more formal sense of the word.
The crowds flowed easily and sloshed against vehicles and barriers as if within a collective swell that had been gathering for hours. When the game began at 6 p.m., the students poured towards the entrance of the stadium, leaving only the supremely dedicated party goers behind.
This scene was apparently in danger when rumors flew early this year that the University Police Department would be “cracking down,” on tailgating at this year’s Homecoming game.
In light of the rumors, University Police Assistant Chief of Police Eric Olsen released a statement.
“To be clear, tailgating is allowed at Homecoming as well as st all Stony Brook football games,” said Olsen. “Our goal is to create a safe, fun environment for all attendees of the game.”
At around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Olsen stood by his words; everything was going well and the tailgate was indeed a safe, fun environment for everyone. After all, there had been, according to Olsen, no serious infractions or arrests as of yet.
Olsen was the only member of UPD willing to speak with members of student media. Fire marshalls, EMTs and hired security all refused to be quoted, or even give their opinions about the event.
One UPD officer responded robotically: “We are not at liberty to speak with the media –it was actually explicitly stated at the briefing.”
Several students spoke to the increased police presence this year.
“Police have been very present but everything has been very civil,” Megan and Christopher, twins who did not want their last names to be included in this article, said.
Olsen commented on the tightening of security, too.
“[Last year] We had several incidences of intoxicated students,” Olsen said. “It’s always about student safety, although last year we had some significant damage to vehicles. Several arrests were made in the previous year for [those reasons].”
At approximately 4:42 p.m., Lieutenant Stankaitis of UPD approached a white Jeep surrounded with students and asked them to please put their “containers” away. This first encounter with UPD set the mood for the day and clearly showed that they were not here to ruin anyone’s fun.
This trend was repeated two minutes later at a white tent adjacent to Student Health Services. Three officers approached the students and asked them to put their beer cans away and the students quickly obliged. The students however, seemed to be blocking one of their friends from view. The friend in question, a young man in a grey three-piece suit, was covered in vomit and sleeping soundly in the hot sun.
Displays of drunkenness were common and were attended to by emergency services. Four ambulances came on separate occasions to retrieve party goers.
Although spectators commented on the ambulances and their occupants, there was a general appreciation for those working hard to maintain a safe environment.
One ambulance, which arrived on-scene at 5:11 p.m. and pulled over to the Downey Family Football Alumni Tent, had evaluated an intoxicated student and whisked them away to the hospital in approximately eight minutes.
As the ambulance pulled away, the marching band, made its way into the stadium, and drowned the sirens out. The game had begun to make itself apparent and students took their last drinks on the go, filling garbage cans and landscaped flowerbeds with refuse along the way.
While most students left to see the game, some were left behind in the parking lot, either partied-out or still going strong.
Officers roamed the thinning crowds, but there was no reason to be on edge. When offered sausage from a nearby barbecue, several officers took a break to grab a snack and some water.
At 6:15, the announcement of SBU’s first touchdown, a scrambler by Tyler Fredericks, echoed from the bowels of the stadium. A weak cheer rose from the remaining partiers, but the parking lot felt markedly empty.
Loud music still filled the air and the officers were gone as soon as they had stopped. Three officers approached the source of sound and asked that it be shut off. The students obliged and the officers took their leave.
This type of amiable interaction seemed to permeate the day. UPD and all other emergency services stuck to their official statements and provided a fun, safe, hands-off environment for students to let loose and have a good time, at no one’s expense but their own.