On the eve of what was to be President Neil Theobald’s first Spring Fling, one can only assume he anticipated a cheerful celebration with his student body in honor of collectively surviving the colder months together on Main Campus. A mere 24 hours later, the man went to sleep debating the future of Main Campus’ avowed “drinking holiday” with the tragic death of a 19 year-old visiting student casting a towering shadow over the day’s events.
Spring Fling was never meant to turn into the “bacchanalian” affair that current students know it as today. It was designed to be a day for the university’s many commuter students to gather on campus, bask in the year’s first wave of breezy weather, collectively show off their new pairs of khaki shorts and enjoy a day of activities planned by an average of 200 vendors and student groups across Main Campus. Professors were still encouraged to hold classes as normal and the event was supposed to coexist peacefully with the university’s academic schedule.
That certainly does not describe the Spring Fling that Temple’s current students have gotten used to.
If the contemporary Spring Fling era had its own dedicated mascot, it would have been an anthropomorphic Gatorade bottle filled to the brim with $10 vodka. Professors would jokingly describe the sweaty mass of Main Campus partygoers as “excited” – often with an added wink – and subsequently ask what the event’s purpose was before canceling class for the afternoon. Student responses would range from conservative – “We don’t really know” – to brutally honest, “We just drink on campus all day.” The university was, in effect, hosting a school-sanctioned BYO affair, complete with added carnival games and barbecue kebabs. Once the April sun set, students would routinely stumble into Templetown houses and continue to guzzle various intoxicants until their bodies gave way.
It was not a matter of if, but when someone would get seriously injured during the proceedings.
Whether Temple’s previous administration had known about the university’s collective blood alcohol content during the event for years and had been letting it slide is a matter of debate, as well as if the cancellation was in any way influenced by the death of visiting West Chester student Ali Fausnaught last April. While university officials do not cite Fausnaught’s premature death as a reason for the elimination of Spring Fling, given the timing of the verdict, it’s certainly hard to argue that the tragedy in no way influenced the decision-making of President Theobald and his staff.
What isn’t up for debate, however, is the intent of the Theobald administration moving forward. Having been President for a scant nine months, Theobald inevitably found himself at a crossroads after surviving the first Spring Fling of his career.
The cancellation sends a clear message to Owls everywhere: after Theobald’s formal inauguration on Oct. 18, any distractions to the academic community will no longer be tolerated.