Let me preface this article by saying that I enjoy athletics and I think that a university community should support its athletes with great zeal. While I do view the public’s prioritization of professional and collegiate athletics as disappointing, this article should not be interpreted as an affront to athletes — their work ethic and passion are something that should be aspired to. Nor should it be viewed as a slight to the importance of organized sports, which serve as a brief escape from reality and a mechanism for uniting people, whether it be a university in an NCAA tournament or a nation in the Olympics.
Turning to the so-called Dinkytown riots, I had never before been embarrassed to be a University of Minnesota student until this past week. While the majority of students may have abstained from the disturbances, it is important for students to realize that, practically speaking, this does not matter. The students featured in the pictures, videos and articles circulated via social media and news organizations become the university’s image. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the situation is that the daily accomplishments and good actions of university students do not receive this kind of publicity, but that is the nature of public opinion that must be lived with.
There have been several pseudointellectual arguments by university students against criticisms of the riots that are as embarrassing as the riots themselves (http://ow.ly/vJdhg). One being that the police presence instigated the escalation of the riots, which I would hope the entire student body would identify as absurd for blatantly obvious reasons. Another argument is that the riots were simply an exercise of the freedom of assembly.
First, the riots resulted in — or at least contributed to — the destruction of property, which justifies intervention by the police. Second, invoking the freedom of assembly to rationalize inebriated belligerence is to marginalize the past and present social issues that are rightly associated with this freedom. The attempted retrospective justifications of the riots by university students are perhaps more disgraceful than the riots themselves. While the latter had the mitigating factors of youth, mob mentality and alcohol, the former are the contemplated responses of supposedly intelligent students.
To the public: Please understand that the actions of a faction of the student body do not reflect the attitude of the majority. To my fellow university students: We all like to have a good time and have all done things that we regret. Is that not what being a twenty-something is about? However, please keep in mind that your actions reflect upon the entire university community and, most important, have the humility and maturity to acknowledge bad decisions.
Thomas Strand, of Minneapolis, is a University of Minnesota student.