Last weekend’s block party riot at JMU highlighted the growing tensions between local residents and college students. The riot is a prime example for the locals to use of what’s wrong with college kids these days.
For the locals and many parents, the images of the riot reinforce the negative stereotype that college students do nothing but drink all weekend and have forgotten that they are in college to study.
But such a sweeping generalization is unfair to the millions of college students who make good choices every day and make their studies a top priority.
And for the JMU students who did attend the block party, many were legal and only looking for one last hurrah before they buckle down for finals.
The sad thing is that many of those involved in the riot were not actually JMU students. Yet it is the JMU students that are being blamed for the police debacle.
The police did their job in breaking up the mob of partiers, but after the mob disbursed, the police should have as well. Instead, they stormed into the surrounding neighborhood without probable cause resulting in property damage after deluging the area with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The stories of the countless innocent people caught in the crossfire are being overshadowed by the irresponsible activities of the crowd and the police alike.
As college students ourselves, the events at JMU also reflect poorly on us. Yes, the popular culture at Mary Washington is very different from the popular culture at JMU, but the image of rowdy college students is stereotypical across the state and nation.
Those of us who have sacrificed our weekends for our GPA should be angry. We make the choice not to be a part of that “crowd,” but we are still grouped in with the guys from Animal House.
Several students from JMU have voiced their anger over this very phenomenon. Out-of-towners and a small minority of disruptive JMU students have blemished the reputation of a very good school with a nearly spotless record.
Responsible JMU students will now be associated with this event, and may find that it affects their ability to get a job or get into graduate school. It’s unfair to them, and the students at JMU that are being unfairly blamed for this event have our full empathy.
But whom do we blame? That’s a more complicated question. We think the riot was the result of a downward spiral of overreaction compounding on an overreaction.
The increased police presence caused increased tension among the partygoers. The increased tension resulted in antagonistic actions of a few people towards the police, and the overreaction of the police culminated in a tear-gas-and-rubber-bullet-ridden evening for everyone in the surrounding area.
Once the gas dissipated, it was apparent that the police had gone too far, and the uninvolved students both at JMU and elsewhere should not be associated with the actions of the minority in an unruly mob.