Weekend disruptions

04-07-2008

Although it is clear that the vast majority of Michigan State University students did not participate in the disturbances at Cedar Village on Saturday night, the events harm the collective image of MSU and the city of East Lansing.

The young people from a number of campuses and cities around the state that attended the parties and perpetrated the violence do not in any way represent our larger campus communities. Many students have expressed their disappointment in the behavior of their peers who participated in the events. Sadly, however, the irresponsible behavior of a determined few will be reflected upon the many that responded positively to the guidance provided over the past few weeks by landlords, bar owners, city staff, and university staff to not attend an event whose “organizers” clearly intended to be disruptive. This broad brush will paint a picture that does not depict who we are as a community, and it puts each and every Spartan in a position to have to defend the values and achievements that truly define this institution.

The scenes of rioting and violence in the media and on the internet will be the only introduction for many across the state and around the country to East Lansing and MSU. It may also be the introduction that prospective employers have to future job applicants, which is another use for the technology employed by those who encouraged the weekend’s events. Social networks such as Facebook and You Tube are increasingly used by human resource professionals to check the backgrounds and behaviors of potential employees. The repercussions for some attendees of Cedar Fest may not come today or tomorrow, but may be felt in the not too distant future when they embark on their first job search after graduation.

I commend the East Lansing and Michigan State University Police Departments on their coordinated efforts in handling the situation on the ground. Throughout the event, East Lansing and MSU were in constant communication. The police exercised exceptional restraint while being assaulted by party-goers with bricks, bottles, and cans and resorted to the use of tear gas as a last, and very measured, response to a group of individuals intent upon inciting and participating in violent behavior.

Both East Lansing and MSU began debriefing yesterday regarding the incident, as well as future action. These dialogues will continue. Specifically, a meeting was held this morning to review the arrests and tickets that were issued, as well as to begin the process of using technology to identify others who may be arrested subsequently.

The reckless behavior of the individuals who set in motion and who participated in the unlawful activity that occurred at “Cedar Fest” will have consequences. There are no casual observers once a notice is given by police to disperse. Those who chose to stay after such announcements were made became participants in the violence, whether they threw a bottle or filmed the action on their cell phones. MSU and the city of East Lansing will pursue aggressive and fair implementation of university policies and state statutes.

In accordance with MSU policy, Vice President June and his staff will also begin to take action as appropriate under our judicial policies. The university will cooperate fully with the city of East Lansing on all investigations and will, while ensuring compliance with FERPA, provide updates based on publically available information. (For more information about MSU student judicial processes and policies, visit http://splife.studentlife.msu.edu/rights-and-responsibilities.)

MSU communities, including students, police, administrators, and others, are unified in our assessments of and appropriate responses to disruptive events. The disruption over the weekend posed challenges, but the collaborative efforts by all of these groups only strengthens our resolve to continue to work together in ways that make our collective community better.

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