Indiana, PA - Indiana County

PEMA agrees to review IUPatty's Day celebrations

by on March 29, 2014 10:59 AM

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency has agreed to take up a review of events that occurred during the recent IUPatty’s Day celebration and the response to them, the agency announced Friday.

Called an after-action review, it is something IUP officials sought following the disruptions and arrests that took place during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, held before students left for spring break.

The celebration’s three days of partying caused general disturbances throughout Indiana Borough, beginning Thursday, March 6, and concluding in the early hours of Sunday, March 9. But most of the attention has been on the large crowd that formed on that Saturday and spilled onto South Seventh Street.

The crowd blocked traffic, and some revelers even jumped on top of a passing car. A few fights broke out, too. As a result of those fights two students and two others are facing criminal charges, including a felony count of riot. A fifth person also has been charged with taunting police officers as they tried to disperse the crowd. He, too, has been charged with riot.

Following the event, IUP President Michael Driscoll announced the university and Indiana County jointly had asked PEMA to conduct the review. In a statement, Driscoll said he was happy to hear PEMA had agreed.

“I’m thankful for PEMA’s willingness to help the entire community work together to collaboratively identify ways to better prepare and address this sort of activity,” he said.

In a statement, PEMA Director Glenn Cannon said after-action reviews are routinely done by the agency following significant incidents.

“Experienced personnel from our Western Area office will lead dozens of stakeholders through the (review) so that community officials are better equipped to prepare for and handle a situation like this in the future,” he said.

IUP has an existing relationship with the agency, and Cannon is an IUP graduate who was named to the university’s council of trustees last year.

PEMA spokesman Cory Angell elaborated that as part of the review, the agency will reach out to numerous people in the community and ask for their thoughts on the event and how it might have been handled better. A timeline for the review’s completion hasn’t been established, he said.

In the meantime, borough officials are putting together a plan of their own for dealing with next year’s version of the event, according to council President Nancy Jones.

Jones said the plan is to be presented to council during an April 8 meeting, but she said she could not discuss particulars until then.

Jones said she is unsure what to make of the PEMA review because the university hadn’t told the borough it was going to ask that it be done. Jones said she is disappointed by what she said was the university’s lack of outreach to the borough over IUPatty’s Day.

As an example, she cited the university’s decision to pull staff members from a February community forum and replace them with students. She said that was disappointing because questions were expected about how IUP intended to deal with the event, and staff, not students, would have been better able to explain preparations.

“There were questions asked that couldn’t be answered,” Jones said.

Most of the conversation during the forum centered on IUPatty’s Day, which is not sponsored or endorsed by the university. Students told attendees that they were helping organize a variety of alternative events intended to mitigate the focus on drinking. And, they said, many of the problems during the 2013 version of IUPatty’s Day were not caused by their classmates, but by out-of-town guests.

IUP disputes Jones’ assertion, and spokeswoman Michelle Fryling said the university believes it took great care to explain its preparations to the borough prior to the event.



Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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