By Stephen DiFiore, Zack Schiavetta, and Sasha Ray
Students discussed accountability for the Stood as well as potential changes to the Stood security at a town hall that took place in response to the brawl that occurred the Saturday before.
A full video of the town hall can be viewed on the Stood’s Facebook page.
The town hall was defined by multiple apologies from members of the Stood staff, particularly Stood Coordinator Meila Vazquez-Miller.
“I really wanted to apologize that this Saturday happened,” Vazquez-Miller said.
However, the forum was also a space for students to offer constructive criticisms of the how the Stood staff handled the situation.
PSGA Senator Gabriel Minah (LAS) said that the Stood should be more careful in how it reports the details of these incidents, citing that people had told her that the original number reported seemed to be "a little bit sensationalized." A statement by the Stood had said that over 50 people were involved in the brawl, but eyewitness accounts described the number to be much lower.
Former PSGA Adviser Antony Ware said in response, "I think you're absolutely right. We need to make sure we have all facts and things before anything is released. I will say that as far as the exact number, it is hard to quantify because there was a very large mass of people and it's hard to distinguish between who is fighting [and] who is trying to help break it up."
Another student in the crowd said that the Stood should be more careful about making generalizing statements about the student body and about the clubs and organizations who host at the Stood.
The statement said that “We give the student body a lot of trust, and this weekend made the staff question the maturity of the student body in a space that was made for them."
Student Activities Coordinator Evan Liu clarified the position of those involved with the Stood, stating that the staff “do not put blame on any of the clubs whatsoever.”
In response to students who were upset that UPD was called to break up the fight, Ware instructed students that protocol requires UPD to be called when these types of situations occur.
“UPD is the first call when it comes to conflict,” Ware said.
In fact, Stood staff members were unwilling to call UPD at first because they wanted to diffuse the situation without getting police involved, a choice that Vazquez said was a mistake.
“We didn’t follow protocol for sure,” she said.
Ware also warned students from getting involved as well, citing safety concerns.
“You could be hurt. You can be killed,” he said.
Ware added that changes will need to be made in order to ensure that the Stood remains in student hands. “The administration has every right” to remove student control of the Stood, he said.
As far as changes go, staff members said that part of the changes will include training staff to better follow protocol that is already in place, such as calling UPD sooner rather than later to break up fights, as well as educating the public to not get involved in fights that break out.
Ware said that other initiatives will be school wide, such as an upcoming campus wide access control system which would require a More Card or guest pass to be presented upon entering the Stood. This proposed change is to quell concerns about people from outside the Purchase community coming into the Stood.
Student Affairs Vice President and Officer-in-Charge Dennis Craig said in a statement to the Phoenix that “We appreciate that the Stood employees and coordinators are taking appropriate measures by closing the Stood temporarily while they are figuring out their next steps,” he said. “We support their desire to spend this time focusing on how best to keep the community safe while ensuring that the student-led space stays true to their vision. I understand that the Stood coordinators are working closely with the Office of Community of Engagement and seeking input from UPD on security measures, which I believe will lead to fruitful conversations and a new plan in place soon.”
Craig’s statement casts doubt on the idea that the administration will move to take over the Stood.
Student reaction to the town hall was generally positive, after concerns were voiced and questions were answered.
Senator Nicholas Astor (OB) said he found that the event went well and the PSGA should have more meetings like it for the Stood.
“A lot of people had complaints outside of the fight which I think shows the that we need more of these meetings,” Astor said. Some students voiced other concerns about events at the Stood and the bands that are booked.
Astor said he empathized with the Stood staff’s actions during the incident, as it never happened before. “I hope we can learn from this, move on, and make the Stood a better place,” he said.
Stood staff who were at the event were also happy with the outcome of the town hall.
"I think that everyone has the same goal of making this space the best that it can be," said Neil Stiskin, a freshman studio production major who works for the tech staff at the Stood. "I think we can all figure it out. I'm optimistic about the whole thing."
Ralph Fernandez, president of Students Of Caribbean Ancestry (S.O.C.A), said he felt bad that throughout the session, Vazquez-Miller continued to apologize for her actions on Saturday.
“I really feel for Meila, honestly,” Fernandez said, “I really feel like she shouldn’t have had to say sorry, and made to feel bad like that because her emotions were valid.”
Ware said at the end that students should not worry about whether or not changes will happen because, according to Ware, the Stood has no choice but to make them happen.
"I'm happy the conversation went well," said Ware. "I'm happy the students turned out, everyone respected each other, and dialogue happened. That's what I'm happy about."
The space is expected to reopen to regular business on Saturday, March 9.
“Nothing says party like a Q and A,” said Astor.
This article was updated on March 8 to include additional reactions.