Students object to tail-gate enforcement at Sun Life Stadium football games

Posted Sept. 17, 2013


Students on the University of Miami campus have been complaining about a supposed increase in police presence at home football games.

Students are unhappy that they have seen a growing number of students getting arrested before games at “tail-gates,” a term given to parties that occur in the parking lot before football games. Students can be found drinking and eating in preparation for the game.

University of Miami students “tail-gating” outside of Sun Life Stadium holding beer cans and solo-cups (Danielle Cohen).

University of Miami students “tail-gating” outside of Sun Life Stadium holding beer cans and solo-cups (Danielle Cohen).

Students say that cops have been cracking down on these tail-gate drinkers, causing unneeded trouble for students with both local government and the university community.

Students also suggest that the police were not this strict last year. They do not understand why they are cracking down this year when last year students behaved the same way at tailgates.

“At the last football game, I went to a fraternity tail-gate and noticed a lot of students I recognized speaking with cops and an overall increase in police presence from last years games,” stated Rachel S., a sophomore majoring in the School of Education, who did not wish to be identified.

A junior business major, who also wished to remain unnamed due to the illegal nature of underage drinking, said that police seem to be looking for ways to get students in trouble this year.

“This year, the cops have been much worse. With the new rules, it seems like you’ll see the cops at least once at every tail-gate. It’s like they declared a war on fun,” he said.

Other students agree with that sentiment and are complaining that cops aren’t just doing their jobs, but rather profiling students and actively trying to get them in trouble.

“The only reason I got in trouble was because I looked younger,” said a freshman business major who wished to remain unnamed due to illegalities, “I was just sitting around at a tail-gate with a closed beer can in my hand minding my own business and all of a sudden three cops surrounded me and asked for ID. Then, when I didn’t have it, they got angry with me. They wrote me a ticket and now I can’t sit in the student section for the rest of the season.”

It is recommended by school authorities that students always have their identifications on them at all times, especially at large events like university football games.

Other students think that cops may be trying to make a quota and are looking to arrest students to fulfill their required arrests per month. This, they argue, suggests that police have become overzealous in their attempts to write as many citations as possible.

An undeclared sophomore said he believes he was arrested at the Florida Atlantic University game on Aug. 30 because it was the second to last day of the month and the cops just wanted arrest as many people as possible to meet their “monthly arrest quota.”

Tony Lake, dean of Students and director of Judicial Affairs at the university, said that any increase in police activity, perceived or genuine, isn’t as a result of university actions. He pointed out that there are two separate types of tickets and suspensions that students can receive.

Students who are arrested for being in possession of alcohol and being under age generally get a ticket which is called a “promise to appear.” With this, students are technically arrested, but they were not placed in jail.

Miami-Dade County police will report an arrested student to the on-duty staff at the games and the UM staff member or the officer will take the student’s Cane-Card. This individual student report is sent to the University of Miami Public Safety, who, in turn reports it to the Dean of Students office.

The student then loses his or her chance to sit in the student section for the rest of the semester. Just like any other offense the school handles, the consequences are based on a case-by-case situation.

In other situations, if a student is simply arrested without a “promise to appear,” the University is still notified, but the ticket to the student section is only revoked for the next home game.

Lake insists that many of the issues students face stem from how they interact with the police at the stadium. He stresses how important it is to be compliant at the football games if a cop approaches you.

“If a student is being compliant and is getting kicked out of the game, the cops will get their information and have them leave, but sometimes students behave badly, and maybe are very drunk, and they continue to draw attention,” said Lake.

”Sometimes students curse at the cops and get arrested due to their behavior. In this situation, they may be handcuffed because of their behavior until they calm down. The police do not have time to ‘just talk it out’ even if you feel like it is unfair. It is not the right time to exhibit bad behavior or fight the accusations,” said Lake.

Still, students are complaining about the harsh penalties enforced upon those who are given alcohol citations. They fear that the enforcement of the penalties goes too far, and unnecessarily causes students extra drama, like sending the information about the arrest to the student’s parents.

Although students are breaking state law and understand that the drinking age is 21 in the U.S., they don’t approve of their belief that police enforcement is much more present at the games this year compared to last. To this point, Lake shares the information that is also present on the UM student handbook.

“The University does contact parents anytime there is a disciplinary act that has to do with drugs of alcohol after the disciplinary case is handled,” said Lake.

“In the very rare case where a student is hospitalized for these reasons at a football game and is in critical condition, the on-call staff at the game will look into the student’s records and notify the parents,” Lake explained.

Lake also stated that there are always four university staff officials present at games that are wearing headphones to communicate with one another and make sure students are safe. These individuals are also responsible if there is an issue on the University buses.

One freshman, who requested not to be named because she was caught underage with a beer, was banned form the student section of the University games for the rest of season.

“I chose Miami because it was a rah-rah school with great academics, but after holding a closed beer at the first football game, I am not allowed to partake in the football craze for the rest of the semester. I feel like I’m missing out,” she said.

Lake said that there are two types of police that are involved with monitoring the tailgates and they have nothing to do with the University. The county is responsible for having police presence at the games. The county generally decides to have the Miami Gardens police present, along with the Miami-Dade County Police.

These officers are often assisted by state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco agents, who generally stay in the parking lot where the tailgates are present and look out for unsafe drinking, which includes underage drinking.

Lake pointed out that statistics for student arrests this season at football games aren’t available and that any talk about increased police presence could ultimately be unfounded claims.

Sun Life Stadium is a private property. It has official tail-gating guidelines. In these guidelines it clearly states, “No Banners and or DJ may be used, and no kegs allowed on the property.”

To this point, Lake said that some of the attention typical of college tail-gates, such as standing in the bed of pickup trucks blasting music, may be what is attracting police attention. Still, certain students remain undeterred in their beliefs that somehow, this year the university and the police have been putting unnecessary pressure on students.

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