During my undergraduate experience at Penn State, I never participated in any “rallies”, which are now being called “riots” because of the destruction that has come with them. Sure, students took to Beaver Canyon to celebrate during my time there as a student, but I never felt the need to participate. Because of my lack of personal experience regarding the matter, I think it’s even more difficult for me to fathom why this keeps happening every time something remotely positive happens to our university.
In my opinion, a celebration doesn’t involve destroying our community’s property, or getting into fights with the police. It doesn’t involve pepper spray or huge horses to control a crowd. A celebration consists of people who are happy, proud, and excited, not people who are overly rowdy, destructive, and potentially threatening to the community.
I understand not every student at the riot was causing damage and that some people were simply celebrating; however, there’s no denying that it wasn’t just the actions of one or two people, either. I’ve seen several articles today scolding the actions of the students and demanding that they stop this behavior, so I’m going to stray away from lecturing, even though I agree with much of what was said. Instead, I’m going to give my own insight behind Beaver Canyon’s destruction.
What is the reason for this behavior? While we’ll never know for sure, I have a few thoughts of my own.
For starters, peer pressure in a sea of thousands of chanting students is more powerful than you may think. It’s safe to say emotions were running high, and if you combine that emotional high with an equally high BAC, rowdiness is bound to ensue. While I don’t want to suggest that all of the students were intoxicated, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to assume that many were. As a recent graduate, I’ve seen firsthand how away games quickly become the perfect opportunity for daylongs, many of which start as early as 12pm and continue throughout the game. Alcohol impacts decision making – simple as that. A student might not normally tear down a street sign, but a student who had been drinking all day and just won the Big Ten Championship might without thinking twice about it.
Additionally, many of these students might have been under the impression that they were “just another face in the crowd”, making it nearly impossible for them to be accountable for their actions since so many people were involved. Unfortunately for them, several campus news outlets were on the scene taking pictures and videos, along with the thousands of citizen journalists (aka other students) documenting every second on social media. In the digital age that exists today, you can’t just expect to get away with these things. The students who caused the destruction might be safe for now, but just like the Ohio State riot, it’s only a matter of time before the police begin identifying the individuals and making arrests.
Going off of that, while Onward State reported the names and charges of the students arrested in connection with the damage after the Ohio State riot, I don’t think many students read it, or talked about it much for that matter. Therefore, I’m willing to bet many students don’t know that several students were convicted of felony charges in light of the destruction. For this reason, they simply do not understand the potential consequences of their actions, and are acting foolishly assuming that nothing will happen as a result, even though that simply isn’t the case.
To reiterate, I am by no means defending the actions of the students involved in Beaver Canyon’s destruction. However, I do think it’s important to talk about the potential reasoning as to why these things are happening rather than just complaining about it and hoping students will eventually “grow up” and stop this behavior on their own.
The university simply needs to do more. A PSUAlert text warning isn’t going to do much in terms of crowd control. Police are only intimidating to an extent. At the end of the day, if you’re walking away from the riot having destroyed property and not received any type of punishment, you might just try your luck and do it again.
Have President Barron release a statement detailing the potential severity of the charges in terms of academics. Have Franklin and the football team say something expressing concern and disappointment about the destruction. Sure, it may not end the Beaver Canyon “riots” completely, but we can hope that then maybe students will listen, think about their actions, and be more responsible moving forward.
The only way that the community of State College will be able to prevent this from happening in the future is to learn from the present, and take action ASAP… Preferably before January 2nd.
Both images courtesy of Onward State.