Following raucous disruptions at UMES prior to a homecoming concert on Thursday, Feb. 16, the event was canceled and other homecoming activities were being reconsidered. The following letter from President Juliette B. Bell to the campus community was released the next day.
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Homecoming weekend is one of the most festive occasions at the University. It is a time when alumni, students and friends gather to celebrate, rekindle friendships and have fun.
Regrettably, last night, the University, in conjunction with law enforcement, made the decision to cancel the Homecoming concert, after the event was forcefully compromised by those seeking to enter William P. Hytche Athletic Center.
The doors for the concert opened at 7:30 p.m., and attendees filled the concert venue in an orderly manner. However, at approximately 10:00 p.m., a technology glitch slowed down entry to the venue, which resulted in patrons having to wait in longer lines to enter the arena.
Unbeknownst to the 1,300 – 1,500 students and patrons already inside the arena, the outside crowd breached with the doorway, pushing past security and ticket takers, and knocking over metal detectors, creating an unsafe and hazardous environment.
In an effort to gain control of the crowd, and to minimize further disruption, law enforcement deployed pepper spray, which caused the crowd to exit the building. It was then determined that the concert should be cancelled in order to maintain safety for all guests.
Cancelling a student event is not something that the University take lightly, especially ones that are long-anticipated. However, the safety of our students, and the campus environment are of paramount concern to us.
This morning we have taken steps to issue refunds to reimburse concert goers.
In addition, we have reevaluated the remaining Homecoming schedule to implement greater measures to ensure sufficient crowd control so that the rest of the Homecoming schedule can continue uninterrupted.
In our effort to strive for continuous improvement, we will be conducting a thorough review of this incident and our practices.
We are working with student representatives to identify a date and time to host another concert as soon as possible.
Juliette B. Bell, Ph.D.