College students urged to avoid rave parties

Jan 27 2011 - 11:27am

LOS ANGELES -- The president of the University of Southern California is warning students not to attend raves, saying that the massive dance parties commonly associated with the drug Ecstasy "can create a ripple effect of dangers that lead to catastrophic consequences."

"I wish to warn you about a specific danger that has become increasingly prevalent in the city of Los Angeles: raves. Occasionally, these are held close to our campuses, often at the Coliseum or the Shrine, and they present serious risks to all who attend," USC President C.L. Max Nikias wrote in the letter sent by e-mail Wednesday to USC students. The letter was first reported by the Neon Tommy website.

Nikias said the illegal drug Ecstasy is common at raves and can produce paranoia, panic attacks and hallucinations. "Therefore, with the collective support of the university's senior administration -- and as the father of two USC students -- I strongly discourage your participation at rave events," he wrote.

Coliseum managers declined comment on Nikias' letter.

The warning came just three weeks after Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena officials declared the Together as One rave, which attracted 45,000 people on New Year's Eve, a success. Seventeen patients were transported from the Sports Arena to hospitals, a drop from the previous year, when 34 were transported.

"It was a good event. It went great," said Patrick Lynch, the venues' general manager, has said previously of the New Year's Eve rave. Lynch said the addition of on-site medical staff helped reduce the number of patients transported to hospitals.

But Los Angeles police and county emergency medical services officials said the number of hospital transports was still significant. The 17 patients taken to nine hospitals between 6 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. "is a lot for the local hospitals to absorb," said Cathy Chidester, director of the county emergency medical services agency.

Chidester said her agency continues to treat raves as a mass-casualty incident to prevent the closest hospitals to the Coliseum from being overwhelmed by severely drug intoxicated patients, who require extensive resources and staffing.

Raves are big business for the Coliseum and Sports Arena, making up about 28 percent of their revenue. The publicly owned venues have been struggling financially recently; between July 1 and Nov. 30, the venues' income was $1 million below its target of $2.3 million.

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Some commissioners have suggested that raves burden law enforcement and hospitals in a similar way as traditional rock concerts. Police officials disagreed.

"Since I've been in South Bureau, I haven't had to police a traditional type of rock concert in 25 years, probably," said Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Bob Green said. Raves are the primary events police must oversee, he said.

There were 12 felony arrests and 22 misdemeanor arrests at the New Year's Eve rave, mostly related to drugs or false identification. Sixty officers patrolled the inside of the Sports Arena, while 286 officers patrolled the exterior.

Green said crowding was a problem: Some attendees waited as long as 90 minutes to enter, putting pressure on screeners to work faster at the expense of thoroughness.

The letter by the USC president was released a week before the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum commission will meet. The commission -- a joint state, county and city panel -- could discuss whether to bring back the Electric Daisy Carnival rave in June. A 15-year-old girl, Sasha Rodriguez, overdosed on Ecstasy at that rave last year, fell into a coma and subsequently died.

The letter also came about two months after an 18-year-old USC freshman who had been partying at a rave at the Shrine Auditorium later fell six stories from his dorm room. The student, who appeared to have consumed alcohol, marijuana and Ecstasy, suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Pasquale Rotella, founder of Insomniac Inc., which held the Electric Daisy Carnival rave, released a statement responding to the USC president's letter:

"The president's advice to the students is surprising. ... Insomniac's events aim to cultivate and enrich the human mind and spirit through the arts."

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(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

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