It looks like it’s going to be a dry spring at the University at Albany.
UAlbany President George Philip announced Sunday to a group of about 20 student leaders in Campus Center that the school’s annual spring time celebration, Fountain Day, will be cancelled. The fountain itself won’t be turned on or filled with water until students go home for the summer.
Fountain Day was scheduled to be on April 10.
It wasn’t an easy decision or Philip. It’s been one that has weighed on him for days, but one he feels is ultimately the best decision for the university.
“This is a regrettable choice, but the right decision,” Philip said in a statement. ”There is much at stake here: your education, your future success, and the success of the University at Albany. We must stand together in our resolve to forge the future we envision together.”
For juniors and sophomores who were looking forward to other Fountain Days, Philip mentioned in passing that the fountain will be closed for renovations over the next two years as well.
The decision came in reaction to the riot that took place last week on Ontario and Hudson streets during the annual Kegs and Eggs party, where students from local colleges drink all through the night and early morning and hopefully make it to the St. Patrick’s day parade before crashing later on.
“We cannot, as a university afford, the kind of reputational damage that would occur if we had an incident at Fountain Day,” Philip said.
At the meeting, which also included some high ranking faculty, he asked for any possible alternatives to fountain day, alternatives that would have no possibility of allowing drunken students to get out of hand.
One student suggested an outdoor picnic with some games, away from the fountain.
“You know what a picnic is,” Philip responded. “It’s a party.”
Christine Bouchard, vice president for student success, said she feared the school may once again rank as a top party school in the nation. It was Princeton Review’s number one party school in 2004, after a notoriously rowdy Fountain Day garnered a lot of media coverage.
Fountain Day 2005 was nearly canceled because of the event but was held in the end.
Student Assocation President Justin Wax Jacobs said he is concerned that his application to graduate school would be overlooked because of the stigma he feels is now associated with the university.
“I’m scared,” he said. “And to be blunt — I’m literally crapping my pants.”
Philip said he and the university would help formulate some sort of letter for any student that feared employment or other future endeavors may be jeopardized because of the school’s recent social stigma.
He also mentioned the few students who were transported to the hospital during last year’s Fountain Day that went widely unreported by the media would receive extreme scrutiny and critique this year.
After only a few minutes of the news spreading through social media networks, several Facebook groups popped up including one called “Restore Fountain Day” with over 600 “likes” and another calling for a Fountain Week, with over 100 “likes.”
Fountain Day is well known as a day of drunken debauchery celebrating the reactivation of UAlbany’s main fountain. Unlike Kegs and Eggs, Fountain Day is a school sanctioned event.
Every year a handful of students are hospitalized for varying injuries and illnesses during the event — often alcohol related. Last year the Student Association paid for Flo Rida to DJ some of the event. More than 8,000 students were estimated to have attended last year’s Fountain Day.
Philip stressed that this is not a punishment on the students but a precautionary measure to protect the university from further backlash from community members and media and to protect the value of getting a degree from UAlbany.
In one e-mail released by UAlbany, one woman named “Sharon” and identified only as a prospective employer wrote to the school about how she would handle a UAlbany graduate that applies for a job with her.
“Realistically, I won’t be calling them to come in for an interview,” she wrote. “There are many other schools where maturity, respect and responsibility go hand in hand with earning a degree and getting an education.”
Other emails sent to the university said students “should be ashamed” and that “local residents, children, pets even, shouldn’t have to live in fear of street riots and the accompanying destruction.”
The cancellation is not a response to budget cuts and is unrelated to the $85 student activity fee paid to the Student Association each year, Philip said.
The UAlbany Student Association does have $46,000 budgeted for Fountain Day expenditures, but SA President Justin Wax Jacobs said he is not sure how or if they will reallocate the money.
“The decision by the University to cancel Fountain Day affects every student. The Student Association, with the greater sentiment of the student population is disappointed with the decision,” Wax Jacobs said in statement.
He also noted that the university did not consult with the Student Association prior to making this decision. President Philip said that while he did have consultation on the decision, it was ultimately he on his own that made the final call.
Other steps have already been taken by the university to restore the perceived diminished school reputation and prevent future Kegs and Eggs like incidents from happening again. UAlbany’s scheduled break during president’s week has already been moved to the week of St. Patty’s day in hopes that students won’t be around during the week’s usual activities, including Kegs and Eggs.
This article orginially appeared in print on March 22, 2011