Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 18, 2013

Another View: E. Lansing ‘disturbance’ was really a big disgrace

Here are two understated descriptions of what transpired on the streets of East Lansing after Michigan State University’s football team won the Big Ten championship:

n East Lansing city officials described the “minimum of 57” reported fires, 2,000 or more “revelers” and 15 (so far) arrests as a “large civil disturbance.”

n MSU President Lou Anna Simon described the events as “disappointing.”

Let’s be frank. This went well beyond a “disappointing” ‘‘civil disturbance.” It was a humiliating, disgraceful and disrespectful display that must be condemned by anyone who cares about the well-being of Greater Lansing, Michigan State University or the rest of its 49,000 students. (Those would be the vast majority of students who didn’t behave with such a dreadful lack of class.)

Indeed, the damage done to the value of a degree from Michigan State University by the frequent national television loop of flames in East Lansing cannot possibly be measured. The taint that lingers over MSU’s athletes, students, faculty and staff cannot be easily dismissed.

Likewise, the damage done to East Lansing’s reputation is significant.

For example, here sit a city and region hoping to gain international acclaim from the cutting edge research to be done at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

The world-class scientists who must live here to work at FRIB surely will think twice about the lack of sophistication of a community that allows this misbehavior time and time again. And that is just one example. Does anyone imagine major employers that have situated significant job-generating facilities on or near campus — employers such as IBM and Jackson National Life — are thrilled to see yet another flaming, violent frenzy?

Yes, since the worst of the “disturbances” in the 1990s, stern laws were passed that allow stiff penalties, particularly against students found to have participated in such events. The university, too, has strict disciplinary policies and will apply them. Yet, that’s been done for a decade or more and still we have “disturbances.”

What will put an end to it? A change of culture must start with students themselves.

They must show pride without rampaging through the streets to set fires and commit vandalism.

The university, city and surrounding communities must be relentless in making clear that this is unworthy behavior. Somehow, the campus and community must get through the next major event without another “disturbance.”

Lansing State Journal

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