There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and University of Massachusetts riots after major Boston sporting events. Win or lose, if the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, it’s a given that hordes of students will flock to the pavilion outside of Berkshire Dining Commons, ready to climb poles, set off fireworks, burn clothing and cause mayhem. At a large state university with a student body that is anything but tight knit, riots are one of the only school traditions that bring UMass students from all backgrounds . UMass students need events where they can come together as a whole and, with sports teams that are subpar (to say the least), the Super Bowl is one of the few opportunities we have. On the other hand, these events come at a great cost to students and the University, sparking the debate about whether or not these types of student demonstrations should be allowed on campus.
From all the emails, dormitory restrictions, early dining hall closings and heightened police presence, it is clear that the University’s administration does not see eye to eye with students on this matter (and for good reason). In 2006, students caused over $100,000 in damages after the UMass football team lost the NCAA FCS National Championship game. In 2012, students clashed with riot police and 14 students were arrested after the Patriots fell to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Moreover, following the Red Sox’s loss to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, students caused $20,000 in damages during a riot where two cars were flipped over. However, after an uneventful post-Super Bowl celebration last year with no arrests, injuries or property damage, it seems that University officials are finally winning the war over student shenanigans.
In the past decade, UMass has been fighting battles on many fronts to crack down on alcohol-fueled, non-University sanctioned events. Blarney Blowout, another time-honored UMass tradition, went the way of the dinosaurs in 2014 after UMass made the news nationally for what Time Magazine described as “drunken chaos.” Whether or not the event got out of hand thanks to out of line students or the extreme tactics used by police trying to contain the event is up for debate. Although Blarney technically still exists, it is not nearly as “great” as it once was. A daytime concert from irrelevant musicians, like Flo Rida and Mike Posner, is a hardly a comparable consolation prize. One thing is for sure, Blarney has been sorely missed by many UMass students.
By no means am I trying to condone aggression toward police or destruction of public or private property. As a taxpayer, I’m not alone when I say that I am less than thrilled when I have to foot the bill for vandalism caused by a handful of drunk hooligans. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for allowing these events to continue on campus and around Amherst. There’s a reason UMass is known as “Zoomass,” a title the majority of students use ironically nowadays. Excessive partying, day drinks at the Townehouses and, most of all, sports riots are all defining characteristics of UMass, and I would consider it nothing short of a travesty for the school’s reputation if these aspects were to disappear from UMass. We need these mischievous activities to spice up the dull atmosphere of Western Massachusetts. Does UMass really want to become a large, boring state school located in the middle of nowhere where fun goes to die? It’s in everyone’s best interest that these events continue.
It’s in everyone’s best interest, specifically the UMass administration, that these events continue on, albeit in perhaps a more toned down manner. There are many reasons that 4,700 students came to UMass as freshmen last year, yet, with a four year graduation rate of 67% and a six year graduation rate of only 76.5 percent, I am drawing the conclusion that a vast number of students are not coming to Amherst for the world-class education. In my opinion, it would seem that 1 in 4 students are here for a good time and not a long time. But, on the other hand, these students bring in valuable revenue to UMass and the town of Amherst. From my experiences, the social atmosphere at UMass is an important feature of Amherst that draws in many Massachusetts students. Without it, UMass Amherst might risk losing a large portion of its student body to other state schools that are more affordable, have a better location and have comparable academic prestige, such as UMass Lowell. UMass isn’t just a school; it’s a community that has sacred, yet few, essential traditions that keep the student body united. Granted, it’s on the student body to make sure the partying doesn’t get out of hand like it did this year, but the students need to walk a fine line to both preserve the school’s unique character while maintaining a safe atmosphere on campus.
Editor’s Note: The last paragraph of this piece was added after an error during the editing process in which the paragraph in question had not been included in the first draft. We regret this error, as it left out a key aspect of the writer’s argument. The headline has also been altered for a more accurate representation of University events and the writer’s argument.
Aidan Byrne is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]