Pandemic Partiers: The Great Lawn Incident

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

By Ryan Ramirez

The Purchase College Great Lawn (Image via

On the evening of Sept 5, there was an unauthorized gathering of at least 30 students on the Great Lawn. 

The students, some of whom were freshmen, were not wearing masks nor were they practicing social distancing. An anonymous caller sent a tip to the University Police Department and officers were dispatched to break it up and investigate. However, when the officers arrived at the scene, all the students immediately ran away.

“Wearing a mask and being socially distant isn’t too much to ask for,” said junior painting and drawing major Lenore Hernandez, who is an RA for the Olde, when asked about the incident. “For the sake of safety and just a general rule to follow for the rest of the student body/faculty/staff on campus and for yourself.”

Dayton Tucker, Chief of UPD, when asked about the incident, and the campus general response to COVID-19 said, “I am moved by the resolve of students who are taking face to face classes to complete the requirements of their degrees. I am proud to be a member of a group of professionals who dedicated the last few months to make sure that we reopened safely.” 

Hernandez did not speak to Dayton Tucker about the incident, but was allegedly told by an unnamed officer that the University Police would not enforce Purchase’s protection and social distancing protocols anymore. 

Hernandez  stated that since the beginning of the semester, they and their colleagues witnessed many police patrols across the loop. Now they, UPD, have expanded to the local roads to the residence halls in response to the Great Lawn incident.

The officers involved in the patrols have been enforcing and following the guidelines enlisted by Purchase officials. Hernandez however said some senior UPD officers were allegedly not wearing masks while on duty. 

Regardless, the alleged claim made by the one officer who spoke to the RAs was an isolated incident and did not reflect the entire University Police’s position on dealing with COVID-19. Hernandez however, stated that they desire that UPD do more in reaffirming the critical need for mask protection and social distancing. Hernandez, and the rest of the residential team, are among those at Purchase College fully dedicated to following Purchase’s protocols to ensure the health and safety of the community.

Hernandez also stated that the Great Lawn gathering was not the only incident that has occurred. There have been others across campus since the beginning of the semester, and they all allegedly included the same students. All these gatherings were limited outside the residence halls. The students at the apartment complexes on campus however, are following and enforcing the rules to combat the pandemic. 

Hernandez also mentioned that such incidents, including the Great Lawn, were documented and posted on a student-managed Instagram, “SUNY Purchase Mistreated Treats,”  as well as the Facebook Open Forum. Due to these social media groups, the Purchase student body is aware of the crisis so that they can alert officials to these incidents so they can be properly investigated. 

Some of the garbage the partiers left behind on the night of September 5 (image via sunypurchasemistreatedtreats on Instagram)

“While infection rates remain low in our area, we have seen the impact at other colleges of how the actions of a few can lead to disaster,” said Tucker. “I can remember our shutdown this past march and I do not want to repeat it. We must continue to follow the precautions for everyone’s safety. UPD will assist Student Conduct with investigating incidents that are not in line with campus policies. “

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PSGA Bylaws (August 2018), Student Bill of Rights, Section B. Freedom of Speech, Press and Inquiry

Neither the student government nor any faculty or administrative person or board shall make a rule or regulation or take any action which abridges students’ freedom of speech, press or inquiry, as guaranteed Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. Students of the campus are guaranteed:

  1.  the right to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them, and to express opinion privately and publicly;

  2. the right to learn in the spirit of free inquiry;

  3. the right to be informed of the purposes of all research in which they are expected or encouraged to participate either as subject or researcher;

  4. the right to freedom from censorship in campus newspapers and other media 

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