Riot or Celebration?
Think back to last Wednesday evening — another big sports game, another “riot.” The gathering came as no surprise to faculty, administration or students. At that point, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Both faculty and students got so worked up anticipating it that I believe there was no way for the “riot” to not occur. Police were prepared to contain and break up anything crazy happening post-World Series, whether the Red Sox won or lost. Fifteen students were arrested at the “riot,” which was really more of a celebration. According to Dictionary.com, a riot is defined as “a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets.” The only part that last week’s occurrence fits into this definition is that it was a noisy crowd. But what do you expect from Southwest, a densely populated residential area housing 5,500 students, plus the additional students who went over there to experience the gathering?
Students all received an email warning them to take precautions — in a way, it tried to prevent the “riot” from occurring, something the administration expected to happen. If students know that the administration doesn’t want people to gather in Southwest, many will proceed to gather anyway to prove their power over authority, simply because they can. The police were there and ready to act depending on student misbehavior. This year, inflatable games and a giant screen were set up in the area, which encouraged even more students to congregate there. To me, this sends a mixed message.
We are at the flagship Massachusetts state university, which means that a majority of students are in-state residents and Red Sox fans. We come together to celebrate a magnificent and rare occurrence: A World Series win. No matter what the situation, we win together, we lose together, we celebrate together and we show disappointment together.
There have been other gatherings in the past at UMass due to sporting events. During a 2003 riot, students were videotaped jumping off of Berkshire Dining Commons, and two cars were flipped over. According to an estimate by the Boston Globe, there was around $20,000 worth of damages.
Such student behavior seen in past disturbances were violent and drastic, but now, students prove to be better at handling themselves in these types of situations. Nothing as bad as past documented riots happened during last week’s gathering. If this was considered a riot, I don’t even want to think about how bad a real riot could be, because this was pretty tame.
These gatherings show the sense of community at UMass, a community that stems from the communities of Boston and Massachusetts, especially from the pride that Bostonians have over sports. Boston pride is different from that of other cities. It brings together people who don’t even know each other to scream and hug each other over a common bond.
The celebrations that occurred in the streets of Boston after the World Series win were not considered riots, and yet they are similar to what happened at UMass. They only differ in setting and participants. Here, they were college students. There, they were fans of all ages.
UMass students carry on the tradition of the University. Academics and standards are improving every year. Traditions must live on. As students, we feel the need to fulfill them, one of which is upholding the expectation of “rioting” when something drastically good or bad happens.
Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org