The University of Virginia yesterday decided to "withdraw recognition" of Easters, the raucous April weekend that Playboy magazine once called "the best party in America."
Citing property damage, the huge influx of outsiders, complaints from Charlottesville police, residents and politicians, the "potential for tragedy" and university liability, Ernest H. Ern Jr., U-Va. vice president for student affairs, announced that Easters "no longer merits official university sanction."
The decision came nearly a month after 11 university administrators called for the end of Openings, Midwinters and particularly Easters -- a legendary two-day festival of beer, bands and hell-raising which has attracted up to 25,000 students, alumni and outsiders from all over the East Coast.
Openings and Midwinters, two other traditional party weekends that never reached the scale of Easters, will continue to be recognized by the university, but will remain "under continuing review," Ern said in a memo to Dean of Students Robert T. Canevari.
As vice president for student affairs, Ern was responsible for the final decision on the proposal, which generated intense student opposition.
The university contributed no money to the Easters' parties, but the end of university sanction will mean a loss of administrative planning for the weekend and of special city police privileges, such as the closing of fraternity row's Rugby Road to traffic for a huge outdoor party.
Moreover, university officials said fraternities could face disciplinary action for holding parties on the April weekend that had been designated for Easters.
"I've got to respect what Mr. Ern decided," said University Interfraternity Council President David Trinkle. "I think we're all in agreement that there was a major problem." Trinkle said, however, that some fraternity presidents have said their organizations might sponsor parties during the traditional Easters party season anyway. "Maybe they can't call it Easters and they won't have all the parties on the same weekend, and maybe they'll have the parties off grounds," Trinkle said, "but there is a need for getting out and having some fun before exams. The need will be fulfilled one way or another.
"And if they do have parties off grounds , that will open up the potential for traffic accidents and deaths like we've had before," Trinkle said, referring to the early-October crash of a rental truck transporting students to a fraternity-sponsored party at Randolph-Macon Woman's College. Two students were killed and 14 were injured.
"I don't know if we could stop it or not," said Canevari of the possibility that students would hold Easters without university sanction. "But I think our students are fairly bright and intelligent, and it's in our lap now to work together to come up with some guidelines that folks can live with."
Alumnus David Mahone, president of the Cavalier Football Club, said he was "a bit upset with the decision. It's been around a long time. I was hoping they could keep it. Right many of the alumni around here felt that way. But I don't think the alumni will get involved. I think they'll leave it up to the students."
Charlottesville Police Chief John deK. Bowen, who earlier had called Easters "a time bomb," said he and city officials were "very pleased with the decision. Now our job will be to monitor things carefully just in case students decide to . . . have it anyway."