AARON SKUBBY, Special to The Denisonian—In the past, any party of 16 students or more had to be registered with campus safety but could be hosted in dorms, apartments, or social spaces. Now, those parties can only be held in designated social spaces.

This policy change has caused lots of confusion among the student body, particularly because the new social lodges that the school has announced are not yet finished. Director of Risk Management Steve Gauger helped to clear up the confusion. 

In an email, Gauger explained the concerns resulting in a change in policy:

“Students began reporting cracking in the drywall below social gathering locations and producing video evidence of rhythmic loading that causes an amplification of loading on the structure. In addition, as incidents of floor collapses occurred at other locations across the country, it became important to take action.” 

He is likely referencing an incident at Clemson University during October 2018, where a floor collapsed during a party and 30 people were injured. Rhythmic loading refers to the effect of groups of people jumping at the same time to music, which places increased strain upon the floor. 

Gauger continued, “Denison employed an architect to interpret building and fire code to calculate occupancy loading for emergency exit. In addition, Denison consulted with a professional structural engineer who assessed the structure and made a recommendation on acceptable loading.” 

The limit of 15 students in a dorm was decided primarily because of structural integrity, and Steve said that the policy was changed at the beginning of the semester as “a proactive effort to prevent a serious accident.”

Additionally, campus safety always creates their policies prior to housing being assigned. That way there are no sudden rule changes in the middle of the year. 

Due to the aforementioned safety concerns, parties on campus are being shifted away from dorms and apartments and towards social spaces. Campus Safety Sergeant Brent Smith highlighted innovations in the party registration system.

Party registration is now linked to Google Calendar, making it easy for students to know the availability of locations and to streamline communication between everyone involved in hosting a party. 

There are additional benefits for organizations that wish to hold events. Up to 3 times a year organizations may book locations well in advance, while individuals may only register within the window of 24-72 hours in advance. Further, the “Connect” template makes it less tedious for organizations to register events. 

In an interview, Smith said, “I try to be very equitable to everyone who is applying to the spaces.” 

He stressed that different groups will be given opportunities to use spaces, and no group may monopolize any social space week after week.