Mankato's public safety director, Jim Franklin, summed it up best when he described last weekend's rioting at Minnesota State University, Mankato, as "alcohol anarchy."
Sometimes it seems there's no limit to the bad choices that are made when alcohol impairs a person's judgment. Loud and boisterous behavior on the part of drunken students is somewhat expected. But what in heaven's name possesses an intoxicated person to set fire to someone else's car?
The Mankato homecoming disturbance was nothing but senseless destruction and violence. It had little to do with the college football game and a great deal to do with young people abusing alcohol. Some say that MSU rioters were trying to outdo the vandals who rioted at the University of Minnesota last April after the Golden Gophers won the national hockey championship.
So many arrests were made in Mankato that it will take months for the judicial system to sort through all of the charges. Some students claim they were arrested even though they were only watching the commotion. The court system will deal with the validity of individual charges but students who may have been unfairly charged should learn a valuable lesson from the incident. When trouble is evident, sometimes the best course of action is to just walk away. Being curious when a situation turns dangerous can lead to problems -- even for the innocent. The ability to tell when a situation evolves from good-natured college hijinks to trouble is a mark of maturity.
To their credit the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University, Mankato, did not dismiss the rioting with a "kids will be kids" attitude. The university has aggressively sought the prosecution of criminals in relation to the hockey celebration that turned sour. College officials in Mankato appear to be equally determined to send a message that such violent behavior is unacceptable.
Perhaps it's time to resurrect the legislative proposal brought up last spring to cut off financial aid for students convicted with riot-related offenses. A measure that Rep. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, promises to reintroduce would disqualify those students from receiving financial aid. Another proposal would require that convicted students pay out-of-state tuition fees.
Criminal prosecution and after-the-fact penalties are appropriate but colleges must also do what they can to eliminate under-age drinking and place controls on legal on-campus drinking. Higher education is more than just academics. Society is trying to develop leaders and good citizens. Universities aren't doing any good if all society ends up with is a generation of educated boors.
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