By Meghan Brink and Tessa Sutherland | March 10, 2021
A longstanding University at Albany St Patrick’s Day tradition has been for throngs of students to hop onto a bus to Hudson Avenue and attend house parties, clad head to toe in the color green and shamrocks, enjoying the crisp Spring air. The so-called “Kegs and Eggs” day-long celebration that occurred last year was where many students enjoyed their last maskless weekend at UAlbany.
This year, with 57 positive COVID-19 cases among students on campus, the University Police Department will be patrolling with campus officials this weekend to deter large gatherings. However, students worry excessive partying will still occur.
“We will be doing some joint patrol with some Dean of Students personal and Albany Police, like we did last year for Halloween,” said UPD’s Interim Deputy Chief of Police Jeremy Calpper.
The Halloween celebrations of Fall 2020, which Calpper referred to as “fairly calm,” caused a spike in positive COVID-19 cases among students, placing the university on PAUSE the following week. This caused students to move to fully remote learning, the closure of seating in the Campus Center and of university libraries, and the suspension of all athletics and on campus gatherings for the remainder of the semester.
“I have no doubt it will happen this year and it will probably definitely increase our COVID cases by a lot,” said sophomore Sophie Koutsoftas. “Exactly what happened for Halloween is probably what’s going to happen again.”
The Office of Community Standards currently limits off-campus gatherings to double the number of people residing at the property, capping at 10 people, and attendees must remain masked at all times. There are strict sanctions for violations which range from disciplinary dismissal to year-long suspension or removal from on-campus housing.
Calpper stated UPD focuses its efforts on targeting hosts of gatherings, who receive harsher sanctions then attendees. “We try to identify who actually lives at the residence, for the most part that is whose name the Dean of Students is trying to get,” said Calpper.
UPD, the Office of Community Standards, and the Deans of Students Office will be sending messages to students reminding them of the harsh penalties for large off-campus gatherings and the dangers of spreading COVID-19.
The first of these messages was sent out Tuesday, which stated, “Not only will the host be held accountable, but the attendees as well.”
The City of Albany has canceled its annual St. Patrick's Day parade, a decision Calpper said will assist in limiting gatherings in the Pine Hills neighborhood of downtown Albany, where a large population of off-campus student housing is located.
“We are definitely monitoring to see if there is any formal parties or anything like that,” stated Calpper on the anticipated gatherings for this coming weekend. “So far it seems to be limited.”
“Darties,” or daytime parties are typical of Kegs and Eggs-related celebrations. The expected warmer weather this weekend and the ongoing global pandemic make a worrisome combination, as students living downtown have already witnessed an increase in partying.
“I mean even on Wednesday when we had the day off there were plenty of darties to go around so I'm sure there will be partying,” said Junior Connor Cota, a resident of Elberon Place, adjacent to Hudson Avenue.
According to an Albany Student Press poll, 81 percent of students believe Kegs and Eggs related gatherings will result in the university being placed on PAUSE. While some are willing to sacrifice a day of fun for normalcy in an effort to avoid another PAUSE, others are not willing to comply.
“They are planning on doing in person next year, they can't afford a pause right now,” said Cota. “That'll make them look silly. They need the money to start up next year. I doubt they’ll get a pause going.”
Clapper urged students to keep gathering small, to stay masked, and also reminded students that there is still a pandemic going on “regardless of whatever vaccine immunity or COVID-post infection immunity people might think they have.”