At Spring Fling each year, undercover police officers are stationed on campus to catch state alcohol violations, including underage drinking and the possession of fake IDs.
The officers — who will be both uniformed and undercover in plain clothes — will be on campus Saturday searching for open containers and other violations. The officers are from the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and will penalize students who violate state alcohol rules, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. The officers are dispatched from the state and have also monitored other universities in the area, such as La Salle University and Temple University.
The officers will have free rein to patrol in on-campus and off-campus areas, Associate Director of Operations and External Affairs Stacy Lutner Ritchey said. She added that carrying an open container of alcohol is a summary offense, which is the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Carrying false identification, however, is a misdemeanor and results in more serious penalties.
There will also be an increase in medical assistance at Fling on Saturday. Rush said MERT will have a medical “observation area,” which will include a privately hired ambulance along with doctors on the scene at Penn Park. The medical tent is in place to ensure that students who are overheated or are overly intoxicated can be treated immediately and prevent trips to the hospital.
In 2016, 25 students were transported to the hospital during Spring Fling for alcohol-related incidents.
Administrators said the increase in security measures is for safety rather than to be punitive.
“Nobody at the university wants to be punitive to our students during special events, especially Spring Fling,” Rush said.
Students said they did not know about the increase in security during Fling weekend, but said the expansion of security measures is helpful to prevent crimes on campus. They added that they wished Penn provided more education on open container laws.
Wharton junior Mark Pino said he thought it was a good idea to educate students about the open container laws because he did not know about them. Wharton and Nursing freshman Obed Antoine also said he only learned about the open container laws from a few upperclassmen a few weeks ago, and wished they were advertised by the administration or student groups that are running Fling events.
"I feel like that's just [LCE] doing their job," Wharton sophomore Clio Sun said. "It would suck to be caught, but I feel like the government definitely has pressure to do what they’re supposed to be doing. It would definitely encourage students to be more safe."
Rush said if any student appears to be overly intoxicated with alcohol, they will receive medical attention from Penn Police and MERT. Rush cautions all students to party reasonably and to not walk around drinking in public.
Rush recommends that if students see someone heavily intoxicated, they should call Penn Police or submit a tip on the Penn Guardian app. The app allows students to submit an anonymous tip, specifically for drugs and alcohol, where the student can submit a description of the situation to Penn Police.