Durham Police Chief David L. Kurz attended a recent Oyster River School Board meeting with a proposal to change the middle school’s bus route in preparation for the rowdy behavioral display put on annually by UNH students as part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
“It wasn’t a pleasant conversation,” Kurz said. “They said to me, ‘So you want us to change our bus route for just one day because of a bunch of intoxicated people walking around Madbury Road during the day time?’”
His answer was simply, “Yes.”
“I think the Cinco de Mayo celebration is culturally insensitive, but it’s something that could be talked about more,” senior Amanda Barba said. “Other people should take the responsibility to learn about other cultures and how not to offend them.”
Bella’s Casual Dining, among other Durham-based businesses, has experienced the complications of underage students flooding in during alcohol-infused celebrations. For instance, during homecoming 2015, the restaurant closed at 4 p.m. in order to avoid the chaos.
The owner of Bella’s, Jeanne Ouellette said that the early closing was due to students urinating, vomiting, throwing objects and also her own distaste for dealing with that type of behavior in general.
“If I want to close, I’ll close,” Ouellette said. “Am I worried about it? Not really. This is my home.”
“I’m confident in the majority of UNH students’ behavior and their ability to make good decisions on the holiday,” sophomore Silas Richards said. “For the causal observer, last year’s Cinco was relatively smooth compared to [Keene’s] Pumpkinfest the semester prior.”
Ouellette expressed discontent with the notion of UNH culture influencing the bus route of the Oyster River Middle School. She said this was due to the fact that residents of the town pay taxes for things such as buses, while the university does not.
Durham businesses such as Breaking New Grounds and Durham House of Pizza (DHOP) have yet to close early because of underage students not conducting themselves in a controllable and respectful manner.
Breaking New Grounds owner Todd Govoni said that in the past few years, he has seen an increase in sales on the morning of May 5, but that it is otherwise a day where business goes on as usual.
“When people are doing what they’re doing, they don’t come in here,” Govoni said.
DHOP general manager John Petrovitsis said that he has faith in the local police departments and that it will be just like any other busy day on campus.
“As long as people are calm and respectful, that is all that matters,” Petrovitsis said.
Many professors have assigned presentations, projects and other work due on May 5, as a way of combatting the highly stigmatized feelings surrounding the holiday within the UNH and Durham communities. However, some feel that university administration could be doing more.
“I think that the university and maybe student organizations could help in that effort by hosting other events or just having lectures and things like that,” Barba said.
Kurz said that the most important thing students should know is to avoid self-harm.
According to Kurz, police will interfere with students walking around campus on May 5 if they are witnessed committing a “visible crime.” This means that an arrest or confrontation from a police officer will only occur if a student is spotted with an open container, throwing a substance, is clearly under the influence or possibly underage.
“Have a good time and don’t put [yourselves] in jeopardy,” Kurz said. “Just be aware and make good decisions.”