Throw ’em out

Police made close to 50 arrests following a day and night of student violence on the campus of Ohio State University Saturday as mobs of young people started fires, turned over cars and threw rocks and bottles at police. Similar riots broke out at Washington State University, Clemson University and, of course, the University of California at Berkeley.

No, this wave of student unrest was not related to an anti-war demonstration. Nor did the student riots break out in protest of the World Bank.

Saturday’s wave of violence erupted following of all things football games.

Ohio State students (and certainly some non-students) felt it necessary to fight the police and burn cars after their Buckeyes defeated arch rival Michigan a win that advances OSU to the college football national championship game.

Clemson fans, who haven’t had much to riot over the past few years, rushed the football field and tore down the goal posts following a win over the University of South Carolina. The celebration which comes amid a mediocre season resulted in some people getting trampled, including a sheriff’s deputy.

Washington State University students and fans showed good ole’ northwestern hospitality by pelting University of Washington players with bottles as they attempted to flee the field following Saturday’s game.

At Berkeley, some students were hauled away in handcuffs, after the crowd overwhelmed security guards who were protecting the football field following the game against Stanford University.

This time of year is often referred to as the “rivalry season” in college football when old rivals many within the same state meet in climactic games to end the season. Emotions are high and students are often treated to inspired athletic competition by teams on both sides. Anyone who has attended a Virginia vs. Virginia Tech game or an Army vs. Navy game can attest to this.

It’s tradition for fans to celebrate their victories which carry bragging rights throughout the school year. It’s almost guaranteed that students will storm the field and even tear down the goal posts to celebrate a win in “the big game.” This is often accepted during rivalry week because the season is at an end and the goal posts aren’t needed.

The disturbing trend, however, is the escalating violence in these celebrations or student reactions to losing. It took more than 250 police in riot gear to control the Ohio State students after fires and vandalism destroyed property on the campus and in the near by community. Fans are also getting hurt when students with little regard to the safety of fellow students rush the field in large numbers.

This escalating violence isn’t isolated to college football. We expect to see similar violence when students riot during the NCAA basketball tournament this March.

This isn’t to say that celebrations are bad, but the authorities at problem campuses have to draw the line. Initial reports out of Ohio State say that dozens of students were arrested for “open container” violations. Police and campus authorities must find those responsible for the main thrust of violence, arrest them and if they are students kick them out of school.

Even if authorities can only identify a small percentage of the offending students, swift and harsh punishment must be carried out. Kicking a few out, or throwing them in jail, will teach the others. The fear of being tossed out of school so close to graduation will be enough of a deterrent for college students to begin thinking about the consequences of their actions.

Responsibility is something lacking in many students when rioting erupts. It’s up to the authorities to educate them in the realities of real world punishment.

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