UMass administration and student government discuss Super Bowl disturbance

By Zachary Weishar

Maria Uminski/Collegian
Maria Uminski/Collegian

In wake of the disturbance that occurred in Southwest Residential Area after a Patriots Super Bowl loss last Sunday, 13 University students who were arrested at the scene were arraigned Tuesday in Eastern Hampshire District Court, according to a University press release.

However, this may not be the end of the action against involved students, according to Student Government Association Senate Speaker Jarred Rose.

He said that over the coming days the administration and University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD) would continue to review both student videos posted on the Internet and security footage from the surrounding area in an attempt to identify students involved in violent activity.

“They are really looking for people that are doing something. Not just people who are standing there and are unlucky enough to be caught on video,” said Rose.

Identified students could face either expulsion or suspension, according to Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of news and media relations at UMass.

SGA Attorney General Kyle Howard questioned whether the University should be pursuing these individuals for an event that has already passed.

“The time for arrests has passed, in my opinion,” said Howard. “It would be unfortunate for them to start identifying people out of the blue.”

Furthermore, he stressed that those who were arrested should be given the right to due process.

“They will sometimes take a police report as indisputable fact,” said Howard. “It is really important that both sides get their facts heard.” According to Howard, this would prevent students from wrongful punishment for a situation that he sees as no body’s fault.

Rowdy and sometimes violent gatherings are not a new concept for UMass, but they are associated with an image that the administration and student leaders are trying to shed.

“People think [rioting] is part of the UMass experience,” said Blaguszewski. “Ultimately, I think it’s foolish.”

SGA members voiced similar disapproval of such incidents during Monday’s meeting. The meeting featured a recess, an uncharacteristic break from formality in which students were able to voice opinions on the issue in an open setting.

Overall, the students agreed that actions such as this are unacceptable and ultimately damaging to the University. Students pointed to the coverage given to the incident by CNN and Good Morning America, and decided this was not the type of image that they wanted to be associated with UMass.

Rose stated that UMass was the only university with a documented violent response to the Patriots loss.

“It’s unfortunate that the local media and national media portray it [negatively],” said Howard. “They never focus on what we are doing that is good.”

At a Monday meeting concerning the disturbance – between Speaker Rose, SGA President Yevin Roh, SGA Attorney General Kyle Howard, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Jean Kim and Dean Enku Gelaye – the leaders tried to forge a new way forward.

“They really want students to own this, to push back and say this is not ok,” said Rose. “If we are the problem, we have to be the cure too.”

Rose said that not only are events like these embarrassing for the administration, they are potentially damaging to the reputation and respect given to a student holding a degree from UMass.

“The reality is that this hurts us, the students, because we are the ones with degrees. When we go and graduate, that is the first thing our employer thinks about, that he saw this on the news,” said Rose. “That is really bad.”

In an effort to distance itself from controversial decisions regarding riots in the past, such as the immediate expulsion or suspension of 100 students caught in the 2003 Red Sox riots, the administration is being cautious in its decision-making process.

One major change in policy is to place responsibility for sending out a message to the students in the hands of the SGA. Roh has already sent out an email regarding the event, but the student government representatives are looking to push further.

Rose explained that they are planning to come up with a course of action by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. Rose was not sure whether the message would take the form of a video or person-to-person interaction.

In any case, he stressed the fact that student involvement is the only way to curb this destructive, damaging habit.

“I think it’s important for student leaders, and it doesn’t even have to just be SGA, to come out and say there is a difference between having fun and celebrating and just being destructive,” said Rose.

Zachary Weishar can be reached at [email protected]