Balloon Sets Off Alarms, Welcome Day Continues Apace

Fire crews trying to remove a troublesome baloon debate the best tactics. - Photo by G. Dumcius

Fire crews trying to remove a troublesome baloon debate the best tactics. – Photo by G. Dumcius

Gintautas Dumcius

Despite a rogue party balloon triggering the fire alarms, UMass Boston’s Welcome Day 2004 went off well, drawing a large number of prospective students and capping three days’ worth of festivities celebrating the new Campus Center.

“Never a dull moment at UMass Boston,” said Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, moments after emerging from the security office, where firemen, campus police, and Campus Center administrators huddled around the fire alarm switchboard trying to figure out what went wrong.

A balloon floated up to the university room’s ceiling, interrupting a sensor’s red beam of light and setting of the Campus Center’s recently installed fire alarm system.

The fire alarm flushed prospective students, their parents, administration officials, and others out onto the front lawn almost immediately after the first session of mini-lectures had ended at 11:45.

Officials quickly figured out the balloon was the culprit, as campus police officer Peter Bonitatibus pointed to it floating up on the ceiling, blocking Sensor #3.

Officials tried to get rid of the balloon through various and creative means as faculty members watched in amusement.

One tied one of the tablecloths into a ball and tried to heave it at the balloon with no success. Frisbees, which were to be given out to new students, were grabbed and run up to the third floor, where they were tossed at the blue and white speckled intruder, to no avail.

One admissions official tried a makeshift slingshot of rubber bands and paper clips. He came close but was unsuccessful.

Finally, someone hit upon the idea of tying together twelve balloons to create a chain, and they were able to push the balloon out of the way.

“The day to me was a great success,” said Liliana Mickle, director of undergraduate admissions, and adding of the fire alarms, “It’s a new building, a new system.”

Outside, during the fire alarm, students and families were talking about UMass Boston, said Lisa Johnson, associate vice chancellor of enrollment management, so “a negative got turned into a positive.”

At least one student went home happy: “I’m really interested,” said Cierra Burnett of Randolph. “I’m glad I came.”

“That was an experience, too,” she said of the fire alarms.