Community airs range of views
on University Weekend events
May 11, 1998
Various sectors of the University community have been airing their views on University Weekend, in the aftermath of events that led to 87 arrests.
A forum Monday night, organized by the Undergraduate Student Government, was attended by more than 100 people, mostly students. By a show of hands, about half said they were at events that occurred during University Weekend. Chancellor Mark A. Emmert, Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Thomas Q. Callahan, associate vice president for institutional advancement, also attended the forum.
The forum focused on the events of Saturday night, when a crowd estimated at about 2,000 people gathered in Farmer Brown's Lot, adjacent to X-Lot.
The forum began with a video, presented by Robert Hudd, chief of police and director of public safety, and Major Ronald Blicher. They reminded the audience that the police officers were not there by choice but because their job required them to be there, and that many were injured by the rocks and bottles that were thrown.
Student speakers presented a variety of views, running the gamut from criticizing the police and blaming the administration, to taking fellow students to task for the turn of events during the weekend.
"Spring Weekend was a series of regrettable events," said Eric Newton. "We are quick to be proud of our academic achievements and even our athletic achievements, but at this point we have to be embarrassed for our actions."
The potential for misunderstanding was demonstrated at the forum when - at the request of USG - the police left after showing the video, so that students would be able to speak freely. A few students criticized them for not being present to hear their views.
Emmert picked up on the theme of differing perspectives. "Part of this is in the eye of the beholder," he said. "Some students see police intimidation, but if you're one of 60 officers facing 2,000 people ... those are unusual odds for intimidation."
After one speaker criticized the administration for organizing events that "nobody wanted," Alyssa Benedict reminded the audience that USG and SUBOG planned the University-sponsored events. "Some students wanted them," she said.
"Communication between students and police and the administration has been happening, it just hasn't been broad enough obviously," she said.
She urged students to be proactive, adding that "throwing bottles at the cops" is not the way to be heard.
Another speaker said he had chosen not to be involved with USG or SUBOG. He said that students outside those channels of communication needed more information about why University Weekend was changed. "If you want to change something, maybe educate us a little," he said.
Liz Ehrhardt, who became president of USG on the Wednesday before University Weekend, said she hoped to defuse the tension. She invited students to take any complaints to the USG office, "just so that anger doesn't become part of the tradition."
The forum ended with a video shot by students for UCTV that showed the overturned car and the surrounding group of young people from close range. "It does not make us look good," said John Policelli, who produced the video.
"What you've seen is not pretty," said Jayson Hodge, a former USG officer who introduced the speakers. "Don't wait until next year to get involved."
The Trustee-Administration-Faculty-Student Committee (TAFS) convened Thursday at the Bishop Center to discuss the history of University Weekend and what went wrong with the planned events this year, and to voice their views about the future of the event.
President Philip Austin said, "I want to send a very strong message that inappropriate behavior, when caught, will be subjected to due process.
Students will be able to make their cases in defense and then justice will be dispensed. Our preoccupation is the safety of our community."
Austin has asked Chancellor Emmert to assemble a task force on University Weekend. During the meeting, Peter Halvorson, chair of the TAFS committee, suggested that the topic be the focus of a Metanoia - day of reflection - in the fall. The task force will consider the proposal, as part of a report to be presented to the board at its meeting in September.
Louise Bailey, chair of the student life committee of the Board of Trustees, said "I can assure you that the Board of Trustees will work with all of you."
The Senate Executive Committee has drafted a position statement that will be presented to the University Senate for discussion at its meeting today, May 11. The statement supports the administration and students for their planning efforts, deplores the violence that occurred, and announces the committee's intention to convene a meeting of faculty, administration, staff, students and public safety personnel for a dialogue on how to foster a sense of community.
Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu & Sherry Fisher