KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Day of Gracious Living can come at any time during the spring quarter for the students at Kalamazoo College, school officials said. It’s not planned. There’s no mention of it in the days leading up to it. Students simply get an email one morning saying something along the lines of 'It’s The Day of Gracious Living, classes are cancelled, spend it how you please.' This year, Wednesday was that day.
“Some students will do volunteer work during the day,” said Dean of Students Dr. Sarah Westfall during an interview in her office. “Some students catch up on homework, catch up with friends. Some go to the beach.”
Hundreds of students opted for the latter on Wednesday. The school provided buses to take the students to and from South beach in South Haven. But by day’s end, police stopped all beach activities and kicked everyone out.
“The word we got yesterday afternoon was that we had students who were behaving in a way that was described as rowdy, disrespectful, disruptive to folks in South Haven on the beach,” said Dr. Westfall. “The reaction is feeling regretful that that happened.”
Police received reports of fighting and loud music. Students took cell phone video of them seemingly play fighting or wrestling. And when the police arrived, they took video of the police on the beach pouring out their beer.
“There are students who drove separately,” said Dr. Westfall. “Our theory is that the students who drove on their own are the ones who probably took alcohol with them because it couldn’t be taken on our bus.”
Later that afternoon, four people were arrested. Dr. Westfall said she doesn’t know how many of them were K-College kids but the behavior, in whole, was uncharacteristic of the student body.
“We generally have high expectations for how students are going to behave and conduct themselves, it’s not been a problem,” said Dr. Westfall. “So this year it was and we’re trying to understand better exactly what went on.”
School administrators are hoping to get more information from the police department later next week, said Dr. Westfall. From the report, they’ll assess how best to move forward. Since The Day of Gracious Living began in 1974, never has it gotten out of hand she said.
“Our message to the students is what it always is which is we expect that you’re going to behave in a way that’s really respectful and really responsible,” said Dr. Westfall. “That trust has been in place for decades here at K. It’s rarely been violated.”