Yesterday, I broke my silence about the so-called “riot” at Homecoming in California and spoke to the good people at the Herald Standard. Hopefully, you’ve read the article that was printed in today’s edition, but for those who haven’t, I feel it’s important to go on the social media record, so to speak.
As many of you are aware, two fraternities rented the Jozart space to have an alcohol free party for California University of Pennsylvania students last Saturday night. We required the fraternities to hire security for the event in the form of two on-duty Sheriff’s deputies. The party was shut down around midnight due to overcrowding. Because of the large number of students involved, local police felt it was prudent to ask other departments for assistance. They made one arrest outside the Center. That’s it. Period.
However, several members of the media irresponsibly reported that the situation turned violent. This is blatantly untrue. Based on every account, one fight broke out at the bar across the street from Jozart and was quickly ended. There was no violence whatsoever inside the function being held in the Jozart space.
It’s our belief that local law enforcement acted in the manner they felt was appropriate and we aren’t contesting their wisdom by any stretch of the imagination. However, we feel it’s important to air our voice on this matter.
Furthermore, it’s been reported that 400 people were inside the party. Again, I must point out the inaccuracy in this allegation. Jozart can’t hold 400 people, even at full capacity, and we blocked off several areas of the Center and told the event organizers beforehand we could at best handle 200 occupants. I wish we could hold 400 people but we simply can’t.
Additionally, we would like to state that our experience with the two fraternities was overwhelmingly positive. As I mentioned to the reporter at the Herald Standard, they were extremely polite and extremely respectful to both myself and to other Center volunteers. They worked tirelessly ahead of the event to ensure no one would be able to damage the space. After the party was ended, they cleaned up after themselves and left the Center in an immaculate condition. You don’t have to take my word for it; I’m also posting pictures taken at Jozart less than six hours after the event ended.
When the fraternities first asked us if they could rent the space for their event, I personally was impressed by the fact that they specifically intended to throw an alcohol free event. I’ve lived in California since 1999 and can testify to the truth that students and alcohol aren’t a good mix. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer students to congregate in safe spaces as opposed to gathering in bars where alcohol is definitely a factor. That’s one of the reasons Jozart offers a weekly Open Mic Night every Wednesday from 8-11 p.m. that is and has always been an alcohol free event. We want to be a space where people can gather without worrying about the dangers associated with drinking.
Jozart Center for the Arts is, always has been, and will continue to be a responsible member of the community. We are an all-volunteer organization and we’re funded entirely by donations, proceeds from our own sponsored, free or low cost events and proceeds from event rentals. Our board members and volunteers donate their time and talent to help us survive and thrive. While we treasure our interactions with California University students and faculty, we aren’t affiliated with California University of Pennsylvania. We don’t receive any local, state or federal funding. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization whose stated mission is to preserve and promote the cultural arts.
While I’ve got you on the hook, let me tell you what we do at Jozart. In addition to the Open Mic Nights I mentioned, we also have art workshops, gallery exhibitions, concerts by local and touring musical acts, plays, readings by local authors, workshops for grade school and high school students and we offer guitar and mandolin lessons. Inside of our space, we have a large selection of books that anyone is welcome to take and read. A generation of children, including my own son, have grown up on our stage, learning self-confidence that’s taken them in amazing directions.
I could go on and on about all the great stuff that happens at Jozart but, again, don’t take my word for it, come visit us. Don’t let a situation that was overhyped by social media and inaccurately reported on by everyone but the Herald Standard keep you from experiencing all that we have to offer. On a final and related note, I would like to say the Herald Standard was the only news organization who reached out to us at Jozart and asked for our version of events.