What the UH and CSC contract states about security and student violence
UH football winning its American Athletic Conference title was a cause for celebration for many, but for some students, it was like going through an obstacle course.
As videos of the violence spiral on social media, views skyrocketing as high as 500,000, Houstonians questioned the ethics of Contemporary Services Corporation’s physical actions in stopping students from running the field.
“I think the most egregious instances were where the staff members kind of taking it upon themselves to act, to basically stop the fan from getting onto the field at all costs,” said Student Government Association President Shaun Theriot-Smith. “(There was) very little verbal argument, it was mostly staff member taking a physical force approach from keeping the student from getting onto the field.”
He described two sides of the altercation: where “students began rushing the field”, “jumping off of the walls”, “wiggling around, trying to get past security”, and where security staff responded violently, including an instance where “a student (was) pretty much getting thrown to the ground.”
“Some of the instances I saw were students and staff members arguing directly, while being restrained physically by the staff member. There was another … a student who was barreled by staff members who (then) pushed him out of the way.”
Although UH has severed its ties from the company, UH Police Department is investigating individuals involved in the altercations, using eyewitness statements and videos.
“The UH Police Department has met with CSC Management in order to identify all CSC employees involved in the documented altercations that followed Saturday’s game,” UH Chief of Police Ceaser Moore Jr. said in a recent press release. “UHPD is taking eyewitness statements, and video footage continues to be under review. Appropriate action will be taken after our investigation is complete.”
Jeff Kossow, General Manager for Sports and Entertainment and the Executive Director of Venue Works, said CSC Houston signed University of Houston’s contract in Sept. 2015. Venue Works is a subcontractor of Aramark in charge of the contracts for the campus and Kossow said CSC’s services were to be used for all events at the Cullen Performance Hall, as well as all sporting events held in various building including TDECU stadium.
“We make sure the companies we use are trained properly, and we … didn’t believe the incident could be tolerated. (We) supported the University’s position by terminating the contract,” Kossow said.
The contract with CSC was officially terminated on Dec. 7.
In the contract, UH Sports and Entertainment’s requirements are presented for all members of the company to abide by. While there is no specifics on what security members should have done when students rushed the field, included is a broad description of the management plan CSC is to provide the University, along with a multitude of training opportunities, not just the company’s employees, but also contractors for the University.
“Service Provider shall describe in detail any proposed Training Standards. This shall include, but not be limited to, initial hire orientation, length of training, supervisor training, training manuals, reference video presentations (if any), site orientation, certifications (if any), tests and other reference materials. Detail any crowd management or emergency life safety training your company provides or requires of part time or supporting fulltime employees.”
In addition, the contract required the service provider with personal screening to ensure those that wear CSC’s uniform are of well character.
“Service Provider will screen all employees and require satisfactory personal references, government-issued identification, and other appropriate measures to determine that employees are of good character.”
According to their website, CSC hosts various events for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston Texans, Texas A&M sporting events and venues for NRG stadium.
Kossow said the contract drafted for CSC was unique to the University of Houston, and when it was drafted, it included preferences from Athletics. While the contract requires a potential security company’s experience record, there was a way for CSC to work alongside UH’s events possibly alluding to a previously, good record until Dec. 5’s game.
According to USA TODAY, who wrote about the altercations, students rushing the field is not an uncommon tradition in college athletics. However, some schools have received fines where fans do rush the field or court, as done by the Southeastern Conference. Although no fines have been mentioned by AAC, students continue to bare the physical and moral damages. Therefore, it is a preconceived notion that students should not rush the field. Theriot-Smith sheds light on the lack of enforcement of this policy during the game.
“Athletics didn’t make any official announcement. The staff and security were very adamant on folks not rushing the field to at least the students at the stairways or at the walls…but we never had any official announcement from Student Government or a university intensity to that end,” Theriot-Smith said.
“I felt that it was completely unacceptable the way CSC treated fans, and especially students on the field. I think Athletics has done a good job in acting quick to redeem their contract from them,” Theriot-Smith said, “however, I felt there was a pretty distinct level of unprofessionalism exhibited by our fan base. I saw it go both ways. I feel that it was predominantly staff on fans, but there were some occasions where it was fan versus staff.”
UH was swift to sever ties with the company.
“I am alarmed and extremely disappointed by the unprofessional performance and offensive behavior of some of the CSC security personnel after the exciting victory at the AAC Championship game,” Chairman of the Board of Regents Tilman J. Fertitta said in a recent press release.
“Based on eyewitness accounts and video footage, an investigation is being conducted to determine if criminal charges and/or civil actions will be filed with regard to the events that occurred on the field.”
Going forward, students hope to see improvement in security’s and student’s response to well performed games.
“I think overall, as we build our football program and as we get accustomed to winning games…I think our fan base will become accustomed to that level of excitement, that level of celebration, going into the next football seasons,” Theriot-Smith said.
At the end of the day, students’ safety was compromised through this incident, and UH has taken a firm stance in making sure safety is a priority.
“As always, the safety of all University students and visitors is of the utmost importance, and we apologize to our students, fans and the Cougar community for this unacceptable incident,” Fertitta said.
Contemporary Services Corporation Houston was reached out for an interview, but The Cougar received no response.