The third Wednesday of April will just be an ordinary day on Main Campus next year.
After April’s Spring Fling was marred by drinking and ended with a 19-year-old West Chester University student falling to her death from an off-campus row house, university administrators have canceled the decades-old event.
Citing goals that have been “undermined” by drinking in recent years, administrators told The Temple News in interviews during the last week that the university is canceling the event.
In the past, the event was aimed mainly at commuter students to showcase student organizations and performers, but as the campus has become increasingly residential, drinking has become more of a component of the day.
The decision to end the event came after a series of meetings among high-level administrators after Spring Fling and during the summer.
After the most recent Spring Fling, President Neil Theobald commissioned Provost Hai-Lung Dai and two vice presidents – James Creedon and Theresa Powell – to look into the future of spring activities, but Theobald said that it’s been clear for months that the event would not carry out as usual.
“It’s kind of been hijacked by a group of people that make this into a bacchanal, a drinking fest,” Theobald said. “We’re not involved in that.”
While the event has been a mainstay at Temple for years, university officials determined that the day met less of the goals it had set for Spring Fling in the past and became a detriment to the academic climate.
“This used to be an event that seemed to have a real benefit to the college community because it was the only opportunity that all of these commuter students came together,” Dean of Students Stephanie Ives said. “This particular event has really transformed into something where students perceive it as an excuse to drink and a drinking holiday.”
Four months ago, Spring Fling captured the attention of the area after Ali Fausnaught, a freshman at West Chester University, was killed after she fell from the roof of a house on the 1900 block of North 18th Street.
While Fausnaught’s death was described as devastating by administrators, Powell said the incident wasn’t the reason for the cancellation of Spring Fling.
“Her death was extremely tragic and just a shock,” Powell said. “But she is not the reason for this move. It was just the culture that this is now a day to drink and that was most disturbing to us.”
The ubiquitous drinking that has enveloped Spring Fling in recent years has also started to draw students from other universities to North Philadelphia because of the culture that has surrounded it.
Though drinking seemed to play much of the role in the demise of Spring Fling, administrators said its effects started to seep into the classroom.
Along with scores of students who skipped their classes for the day, officials reported hearing of professors who contributed to it by canceling class.
“There’s nowhere we said cancel class, there’s nowhere we promoted skipping class, so there’s just something wrong with this position,” Powell said.
Temple Student Government Student Body President Darin Bartholomew said he was asked by administrators to make the academic case for Spring Fling, which he couldn’t because “it’s very hard to make an academic case for an event where classes are canceled.”
“If any student rationally thought about that question and tried to put themselves in my position, you can say a lot of things that quite honestly aren’t true, but if you are going to answer with any sort of integrity, it’s very hard to make that case,” Bartholomew said.
Instead of Spring Fling, Student Activities, TSG and the Main Campus Program Board, along with other students, are working on finding other events for the spring, though officials warned that no single program will replace Spring Fling.
“We will continue to find spring programming that will achieve the goals that we had set: engagement in campus, feeling that sense of school spirit, providing students and student organizations the opportunity to be involved and demonstrate what it is that they’re all about,” Ives said. “We want to find a way to fulfill those goals.”
Ives added that she expects to receive recommendations on spring programs within the next few months.
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.