Celebrations, 2006

03-15-2006

I’m a big fan of both MSU women’s and men’s basketball, so I’m really looking forward to long runs by our teams in this year’s NCAA tournaments. And with their victories will come another set of opportunities for all of us to celebrate and show our Spartan pride.

Over the past month or so, you’ve probably read in the Lansing State Journal and The State News about some of the ways the MSU and East Lansing community will be promoting safe, responsible, and—yes—fun ways of celebrating our victories this year.

For a number of years, we’ve been working together with students, representatives of the City of East Lansing, and other community members—what’s become the Celebrations Committee—to figure out how to make sure that, as a community, we can celebrate responsibly and express our enthusiasm for our teams.

We all agree that protecting the health, safety, and property of our entire community is our paramount concern. Beyond that, it is essential that the relationship between East Lansing and the university be a strong one—we may be two entities, but we are a single community, historically and inextricably linked.

Over the last 10 months, the community has come together and, through the Independent Review Commission, done a thorough examination of last year’s events. We believe we’ve addressed the reasons that they happened, and we are confident that they will not happen again.

One of our main objectives has been to identify ways to learn from what happened last year. Everyone involved understood that we had to do better. The concerns that emerged from the review process have led to specific recommendations and concrete actions, and perhaps most important, a shared understanding that through better communication, all of us WILL do better.

At a recent meeting of the Celebrations Committee, new East Lansing Police Chief Tom Wibert and MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap outlined some of their plans to assure a safe, secure, and fun celebration this year.

According to both chiefs, East Lansing is planning a “friendlier” approach to crowd control, one that will rely heavily on what he calls “old-fashioned police work.” There will be an increased presence of plainclothes officers on the streets and among the celebrants, and a greater focus on arresting those few individuals who actually cause trouble.

The Celebrations Committee has also been drafting a series of “need to know” messages that are being distributed, not only in the local community, but throughout the entire state. You may recall that last year, fewer than half of those arrested were MSU students, so these messages will not only encourage everyone to celebrate in a responsible way, but also remind visitors to our community that those who choose to do otherwise will be held accountable for their actions. You already should be seeing some of these messages being communicated across the campus at meetings of the Residence Hall Assembly and ASMSU, and covered in The State News.

We appreciate the patience and the input from each and every member of the community who worked to shed light on the events of that night, who offered suggestions to make things better in the future, and who are moving us forward.

We know that even last year, the vast majority of our students DID celebrate responsibly—as we asked them to do—and we’re proud of them for that. All of us in the university community deeply regret that the inappropriate conduct and behavior of a tiny handful led to unintended consequences for many.

This year, I’m looking forward to our MSU and East Lansing communities showing our state and nation that win or lose, we Spartans know how to express our enthusiasm for our teams. I often say that our community reinvents itself on an annual basis, and the process of building community here is one that will always be ongoing.

We are moving forward with better and broader communication, enhanced trust, and a shared commitment to success on “both sides of the street.” As we write the next chapter, my strong hope is that we will continue looking out for one another and showing the world our Spartan pride.

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