Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Downriot Dangerous

By Emily Merlino

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It’s Sunday night, and 100 of you and your closest friends are watching the New England Patriots and the New York Giants battle for a Super Bowl ring. Suddenly, your team of choice enacts a play that wins the game. Beers are chugged, hugs are given and everyone runs outside to celebrate with the rest of Southwest.

Courtesy of Brian Jeffrey's Flickr account

Here, the night continues as it had inside. People are drunk, emotional and yelling things that might not make any sense. You’re smashed in this claustrophobic crowd of sweat, tears and booze – a typical night out at a frat. The night continues; some guy is chanting the hero of the game’s name, people are having a good time, trash cans are being set on fire and thrown at cars, people are flipping trucks … wait, what?

It sounds outrageous, but this is essentially how a riot starts. This behavior from University of Massachusetts students is silly, immature and frankly embarrassing.

Celebrating Tom Brady’s new haircut and fantastic game with a group of drunken friends is one thing. Smashing the windows of cars and subsequently getting pepper sprayed in the face is another. I understand the desire to raucously rejoice with the rest of Southwest after your team of choice wins the Super Bowl, I do. I just don’t think that partying responsibly means climbing to the top of Berkshire, getting naked and throwing a flaming Eli Manning jersey onto a car.

“I think celebrating is fun, but only to a certain extent,” said junor Michelle Aghiarian.

Beyond the mere absurdity of the actions students take during a riot is the reputation it gives the school. We already deal with, and often pride ourselves in, the nationwide reputation we have as “Zoomass Slamherst.” While some students enjoy the school’s party-hard public image, others disagree and say that rioting will just cause further negativity.

“If we all riot, it just makes us uphold the image of Zoomass,” said Kathleen Talbot, a senior.

A state school carrying a reputation as a party school is nothing new or particularly dangerous. Still, a school that gains a name for itself through violence and rioting is downright shameful. Kent State University in Ohio is now infamous for the shootings that occurred in 1970, in which the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students who were protesting the Vietnam War. The school has never recovered. Every time the school is mentioned, the first thing people think of is the shootings. Not exactly a great recruitment tagline. The last thing UMass needs is a status as a place where students are prone to destructive disturbances at any given moment.

Martin Luther King, Jr., so eloquently stated that a “riot is the language of the unheard.” To apply this quote to what is happening with the Arab Spring, in which millions of newly educated young Middle Eastern students rise up against repressive governments, is fair.

However, a riot over a football game at a state university is not in the same realm as rebelling against a genocidal dictator. It isn’t even on the same plane as the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movements all across the globe. No, a riot on campus over something inane is merely students behaving with immaturity and disregard for safety.

I completely understand the draw of getting involved in a riot. You could be a part of history. You could have a night to remember for the rest of your life. You could get expelled. You could get arrested.

Yes, you could actually get arrested for participating in a campus riot. In 2006, 10 students were arrested after for participating in a riot after the UMass football team lost to Appalachian State in the NCAA Division I national championship game. The students faced charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Furthermore, the students faced expulsion. Is getting arrested, possibly having charges on your permanent record and getting expelled from school really worth throwing a vending machine through the windows of Berk?

If a riot causes major damage to the Southwest Residential Area, multiple negative changes could have a direct impact on all students, not just those participating in the riots. To raise funds to salvage and repair damaged property, money might be taken away from more important campus projects. Stricter rules on campus gatherings could be enacted. Why would you want to wreck your home? Tom Brady or Manning will return to their clean, spotless mansions to celebrate their win, while you return to a low-rise with broken windows and ruined lounges. It just seems incredibly counterproductive to essentially wreck the bed you sleep in.

So this Sunday, have fun, keep calm and party responsibly. Don’t act like animals at the zoo found some matches and vending machines. And for God’s sake, don’t light anything on fire.

Emily Merlino is a Collegian Columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Downriot Dangerous”

  1. Brian Canova on February 5th, 2012 10:20 am

    Great job on this

  2. Emily Merlino on February 6th, 2012 2:49 pm

    Thank you!

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