Partying, misuse could cause Hall of Music to close

Derek Thurber

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Credit: Marin Axtell

Discarded alcohol bottles, cigarette butts and vomit-stained floors have found their way into the Hall of Music practice rooms on several occasions over the course of the past few weeks, leading the music department and Whitman College security to consider limiting student access to the building.

“There have been a handful of incidents where someone has been smoking cigarettes and pot in a couple of practice rooms, as well as drinking alcohol in the room; leaving cigarette butts and liquor bottles around for someone else to clean up; leaving remnants of food in/around the pianos; leaving vomit for others to clean up,” Susan Pickett, Catherine Chism Professor of Music said in an e-mail.

There have been four separate incidents reported to Whitman Security, the first on Jan. 5 and the other three on Jan. 26, 27 and 28. In all but one of these cases, the incidents were reported after empty alcohol containers or smoking remnants were found in the practice rooms the next morning by a janitor. The incident reported on Jan. 27 was more serious, involving not only an even larger number of alcohol containers and smoking remnants in several practice rooms, but also the discovery of vomit on the floor of another practice room.

“After the major [Jan. 27] incident we had a short discussion about what to do if this continues,” Associate Director of Security Craig McKinnon said.

Security decided to wait and see if the people involved would decide to stop on their own, but realized that if the incidents kept occurring other actions might have to be taken.

Whitman Security has already increased their night time patrols of the music building and has started locking the doors at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. However, if these incidents continue despite these increased security measures, the music department will be forced to limit access to the music building.

“If this keeps happening we will have to limit the hours of the music building to protect our expensive equipment,” Pickett said.

“When things like this happen they limit access to the facility, which would be bad because there are many students who want to just go in there to play pianos,”   McKinnon added. “That is one of the things that is great about this campus is giving access to its facilities and if we start curbing that then it is like any other school.”

Senior music history major Ilona Davis has already started to worry about the implications of this potential building closure on students.

“It would be really terrible [if the music building was closed] because there are a lot of people who take applied music, so to restrict the time practice rooms are available could make it much more difficult for everyone to find time to practice,” she said. “I understand why they would close it, but I really hope they don’t have to.”

The effects of limiting access to practice rooms would extend beyond applied music students and music majors to some student groups who also rely on the building’s practice space. Many of the A Capella groups use the music building late at night for their practice sessions. Schwa, for example, practices many weeknights in the music building from 10-11:15 p.m.

So far, there is no evidence as to who could be responsible.

“We have no indication of if it’s students or not,” McKinnon said. “We have to assume it is students because they are gaining access after the building is locked and we are seeing the card swipes used after the building is locked, but we can’t really point fingers because it is hard to tell.”

No matter who is responsible, these incidents could have criminal implications for those involved.

“The smoking is a state violation. There could be fines imposed. If we brought police in they could site [the people involved] for open containers if they are under 21, but also for smoking in a public building,” McKinnon said.

Whitman Security doesn’t like to bring in the police unless someone is being really belligerent.

For Whitman College, these incidents could have even larger implications.

“If the Department of Health gets wind and they say we are not doing enough, they could fine the school up to 100 dollars a day until the incidents stop,” McKinnon said.

Ultimately, according to McKinnon, everyone just hopes that the people responsible will realize the effect of their actions and stop on their own.

“It’s an education process here,” he said. “We need people to feel responsible for what they are doing so that they will want to stop on their own.”

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