Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 1, 2014

Another View: How can East Lansing, MSU put out fires?

East Lansing and Michigan State University still have time to propose new ways to avoid post-game fires or violence tied to likely participation by the men’s basketball team in the annual NCAA tournament.

Let’s face it, for more than a decade there’s been a regrettable tendency by a minority of MSU students and young people from the region to congregate on or near campus, joining in behavior that often resembles a riot, although most university and city officials prefer to label these events “disturbances.”

Presumably such efforts to downplay the description are meant to limit the notoriety achieved by participants, thereby discouraging repeat behavior.

LSJ reporter Kevin Grasha recently reported on the status of the 27 — mostly MSU students this time — arrested in connection with December’s “disturbance” that followed the football team’s Big Ten championship victory.

So far, seven have pleaded guilty to a charge of being within 300 feet of an open fire.

An attorney involved in some of the cases believes plea bargains are likely that will allow the defendants to avoid a permanent criminal record and also allow them to avoid punishment under a state law that would forbid them from attending a state college or university if convicted of participating in such a disturbance.

Only three of those arrested were charged with kindling or maintaining an open fire; several were charged with assembling for a riot.

In a recent meeting with the LSJ Editorial Board, City Manager George Lahanas said it’s likely that some defendants will end up with jail time.

Officials expect the reality of such penalties may do more to prevent future disturbances than past efforts that focused on the message that most Spartans don’t participate in violent demonstrations after major sports victories (or after disappointing losses, for that matter).

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