While there were 22 citations or arrests this year’s Week of Welcome (WOW), the city saw a serious decrease in party-related trouble.
While there were 22 citations or arrests this year’s Week of Welcome (WOW), the city saw a serious decrease in party-related trouble.

Sean McMinn
smcminn@mustangdaily.net

Police arrested or issued citations to 22 of the thousands of freshmen, upperclassmen and out-of-towners that Cal Poly’s annual Week of Welcome (WOW) drew to the streets of San Luis Obispo, University Police Department Chief George Hughes said — a dramatic decline from the number of arrests and citations issued in years past.

Though the number of arrests and citations decreased — university police logged 50 in 2010 and 80 in 2011 — the new police chief said the amount of binge drinking among students during the week still concerns him. University police responded to six calls that resulted in students being transported to the hospital with symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

“For young people, it just breaks my heart to see that if someone drinks too much and might choose to use alcohol or drugs, to make a poor decision that they wouldn’t normally make that could really affect the rest of their life,” Hughes said. “That just makes me sad.”

The changes that brought down the number of arrests and citations during WOW began all the way back in July, when traditional parts of WOW were incorporated into the summer orientation program, Student Life and Leadership Director Stephan Lamb said.

Freshman move-in day continued with the changes, as students piled into residence halls a few days later than normal, making the trek to Cal Poly from home on a Wednesday instead of the usual Monday. Cutting down on extra time in the halls led to some reduced partying for first-year students, as they began meeting with their WOW leaders just two days after arriving.

But despite the changes, there’s always an opening weekend. And that weekend led to thousands of students crawling neighborhoods surrounding campus, and exploring Cal Poly’s party scene until the early hours of the morning.

Several of the students in neighborhoods surrounding campus, specifically those on Hathway Avenue and California Boulevard, were there just to explore and weren’t necessarily partying, Hughes said. Still, his concern rests in the crowds that are too big for sidewalks and instead travel in the middle of the road.

During the early stages of WOW, police were forced to travel by foot because cars could not pass down some streets.

“That’s a very dangerous situation for not just the people who are present, but also the people, police officers, surrounding residents,” Hughes said. “It’s just a recipe for danger.”

Lamb attributes the decrease in the number of arrests to changes in the WOW program, including changing the number of days freshmen spend with leaders. Freshmen met their leaders Friday, two days after moving into the residence halls, and stayed with them until Monday afternoon. Hughes and Lamb both said nighttime partying significantly decreased on Friday night and stayed consistent through the weekend.

“That was gratifying to see,” Lamb said. “It means some of the changes we’re trying to put into effect are being successful.”

Part of WOW’s plan to reduce after-hours illegal activities for freshmen included late-night programs for WOWies to attend. Lamb said these kinds of activities, such as a bonfire at Avila Beach and a dance in the Recreation Center, were all “packed.”

Though there were planned activities, WOW leaders were given several options of what to do at night. The one requirement was to provide freshmen activities in the WOW program until 11 p.m. each night.

Meeting at 9 a.m. — as opposed to earlier start times in years past — helped keep freshmen in the program and off the streets, WOW leader and chemistry junior Brooke Engle said. This meant WOWies could get sleep and keep up the endurance to stay in their groups throughout the entire of day, instead of leaving and going out to party, Engle said.

Despite the long hours they spent together, many leaders avoided talking with their WOWies about what happens after WOW and what they planned to do when WOW activities concluded each night. Engle said she simply told her group to make smart choices and to be ready in the morning.

“We don’t want to encourage (partying),” Engle said. “I said to be safe and to be functioning in the morning. I mean, WOWies go out. That’s half the point. They’re just getting to college. But the message is there’s other things you can do, but also be safe, because we can’t make the choices for you.”

Editor’s note: We originally published that the stats for arrests in previous years were 50 arrests or citations in 2011 and 80 in 2012. It is actually 50 arrests or citations in 2010 and 80 in 2011. We apologize for any confusion. 

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4 Comments

  1. I feel as if claiming that these small changes to the wow program have lessened the amount of arrests the first week is a hasty generalization. Extending the hours of the wow days may only be a small factor. The article does not mention any other factors such as the type of first years more likely to party could have lessened and it does not consider the wowies that simply do not attend the wow activities late at night. Just these couple of instances of fewer arrests is not enough to say that these changes lessen arrests. This can also be seen as nonsequitur or a post hoc fallacy.

  2. It is a hasty generalization to say, “The changes that brought down the number of arrests and citations during WOW began all the way back in July, when traditional parts of WOW were incorporated into the summer orientation program.” There is no hard evidence backing this up and this one year of less arrests is not enough to back up this claim.

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