The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

May 7, 2014

In Our Opinion: Peer pressure must solve OH-Fest woes

The Daily Star

---- — To all of those students at Hartwick College and the State University College at Oneonta people who work so hard to make the OH-Fest the outstanding event that it is, we offer these words of advice … and warning. 

You’ve got a really good thing going. But more than a few of your fellow students are messing things up for everyone. 

The daytime street carnival held on Main Street in Oneonta is always a terrific town-gown event, bringing together students and the general population. 

But then, after dark, comes the concert in Neahwa Park, and that’s when things tend to get a bit ugly. That’s because, police say, young people begin drinking alcohol during the day and are intoxicated by the time the concert starts. 

That was the “overwhelming norm” this year, according to Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor. 

“People were trying to bring in their own alcohol,” Nayor said, “treating it like it was a backyard barbecue.”

There were no arrests or significant injuries this year, Nayor said, but it would not have taken much for there to have been a major incident.

“We were just really hoping that nothing bad would happen ... that there would be nothing to ignite the ‘powder keg,’” Nayor said. “The alcohol, live music and outdoor setting are all elements that create a dangerous dynamic that could easily get out of control.”

We recognize that it has been a long, cold winter, and a long, hard academic slog for many of the students. We understand the need to blow off a little steam, but getting wasted and out of control should not be synonymous with the OH-Fest.

During the concert, particularly during headliner Sammy Adams’ set, there was a lot of shoving, and several people were pushed to the ground, Nayor said. But a lot of the trouble came after the drunken audience was, to use Nayor’s term, “unleashed” on the city after the concert. 

“There were several fights,” Nayor said. “And then you have public urination, noise, disorderly conduct, people wandering into traffic and slapping cars as they walk by them. … Just a general lack of respect. 

Appropriately, the city did a post-mortem about the OH-Fest to search for ways to reduce the drunkenness and hooliganism. However, there were no easy solutions. We can think of only one. 

Peer pressure — condemnation by the majority of students who are well-behaved and those who work so hard for the success of the event — is probably the only thing that can make any real difference.

If the students don’t get a handle on this problem, the city just might do it for them by putting an end to what should be an annual success story.