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Students celebrate Welcome Weekend with parties as police, university monitor activities

A partygoer poses for a picture while attending a large party outside of a Deerfield Village apartment Aug. 14.

After a spring and summer of social distancing, and an early move-in, some Central Michigan University students were ready to celebrate being together during Welcome Weekend. 

Welcome Weekend consisted of clear, warm nights.  On a drive down Main Street, and the surrounding neighborhood, students could be seen playing beer-pong, music was blasting from speakers and police cruisers from across Central Michigan were driving up and down streets.  

President Bob Davies went on a ride-along with the CMU Police Department to several off-campus houses and apartments. He said that at each gathering he encouraged students to wear masks and practice social distancing. 

"I want to reiterate that message as often as possible and everywhere possible," Davies said. "We all share a responsibility to protect ourselves and others, and to slow the spread of COVID-19, whether we are in a classroom or in a social setting."

Videos of Davies playing cornhole with some students on Friday were shared across social media and garnered responses from students on Twitter.

On Aug. 4, Davies sent an email ahead of Welcome Weekend to students at CMU. In the letter to campus, the president warned students of his concerns for those taking part in weekend celebrations.

"Nationwide, the virus continues to spread and there is still no vaccine or cure," Davies said. "This means that every time we interact with others, we run the risk of spreading infection, even when we feel healthy. "

Further in the email, Davies tells students to "avoid large gatherings." 

Welcome Weekend turned into "Welcome Week" with parties beginning as early as Tuesday. Public information officer for the Mount Pleasant Police Department Autume Balcom said officers cited the host of a nuisance party Wednesday night. 

Thursday through Saturday night had extra police officers from six different police agencies. Midland, Shepherd and Michigan State Police patrolled alongside Mount Pleasant and CMU police.

On Saturday, 30-40 people gathered outside Deerfield Apartments with few masks being worn. Saginaw sophomore John Guerra said he looked forward to the party. He wanted to see his high school friends and meet new people. He did not feel unsafe since he wasn’t sharing drinks or rubbing up against people, apart from fist bumps.

Guerra said he was sick a couple times in the past couple months. He thinks his immune system is "tough enough." Guerra was not tested for COVID-19 but thinks he had it at some point this summer.

“(An outbreak) is definitely a concern and going online for the rest of the semester, if not, the rest of the year,” Guerra said. “You can’t live in fear of having fun or else you’re not gonna live.”

Other CMU students expressed frustration on social media with their peers who threw Welcome Weekend parties.

"I think students need to take a step back and ask what level of risk is worth it to them and also acknowledge that they are not only putting themselves at risk, but the entire community around them," Waterford graduate student Autumn Gairaud said. "Personally, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I found out I potentially exposed someone to COVID-19 or made them lose a loved one because I had partied without a mask on and been unsafe."

There is no info on arrests by police as of noon on Sunday.