SGA Speak-Up discusses riots, solutions
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 03:10
The West Virginia University Student Government Association sponsored a Speak-Up Tuesday to discuss solutions and alternatives to the post-game mayhem following the WVU-Texas game.
Daniel Brummage, Speak-Up Administrator and former SGA Chief-of-Staff, said the goal of the discussion was to host a student-led conversation to generate positive solutions to the issue.
Along with approximately 30 members of the WVU community, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Communications Sabrina Cave and Student Body Vice President Jarred Zuccari, Brummage and University Police Officer Travis Snuffer were in attendance to participate in the discussion.
Brooke Andrews, a recent homecoming queen candidate, expressed her concerns involving bystanders getting pepper-sprayed during the riots.
According to Andrews, the situation on High Street appeared to be under control. Andrews said she did not see illegal activity but students simply dancing, singing and celebrating in the street.
"I mean, if I go down the road dancing and singing, am I going to get pepper-sprayed?" Andrews said.
However, as one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, Snuffer discussed a much different experience on Grant Avenue.
"Cars were pushed over and a light pole was knocked down, and even then, none of us were spraying or anything
until bricks and things were thrown at our faces," Snuffer said. "When they start throwing stuff, that’s when we escalate our level of force and try to get everyone out of the area."
According to Snuffer, pepper spray was utilized only after police requested those in the street to disperse.
Snuffer said no one followed the police officers’ requests, so pepper-spray was used to gain control of the crowd.
SGA member Farah Famouri has been a resident of Morgantown her entire life.
Famouri said she never remembers the couch burnings and rioting to be this severe.
"The biggest problem is that we don’t have a designated place to go after the games," Famouri said.
SGA Governor Dillon Knox said he agreed with Famouri and said he strongly believes students want to celebrate together after big wins.
"Everyone just wants to be united and be a Mountaineer together," Knox said.
Controlled post-game after parties were offered as a suggestion. Sponsored parties would include controlled alcohol sales, food and increased security – similar to events such as FallFest.
Other ideas, including sponsored game-watch parties at the Coliseum, were brought to the table for discussion.
Many also suggested having a University-sponsored controlled burning.
However, Brummage said he believes the issue isn’t during the game – it’s after.
Because of to issues surrounding city law and the availability of resources, the group determined controlled burnings may not prove to be the best option.
SGA Governor Ryan Campione suggested having a set time after a win to meet at Woodburn Hall, lighting the building and playing "Country Roads" as a positive alternative to the rioting.
"We need a cultural change," Campione said. "‘Country Roads’ playing in the stadium after games became a tradition over time to prevent everyone from rushing the field."
Snuffer said the plan for this weekend’s post-game procedure is to increase the number of officers present in high-fire areas.
SGA Chief-of-Staff Earl Hewitt said he spoke with University Police Chief Bob Roberts and discussed an idea used at Penn State following riots in 2008. By examining local alcohol sales, Penn State determined the amount of police officers needed for the weekend.
Hewitt said although the effort took much time and hard work, it has largely combatted the issue at Penn State and could be effective in Morgantown.
Cave said while finding a solution is necessary, she believes change will not take place immediately.
"This won’t be solved overnight, but I empower each of you to speak up because peers listen to peers," she said.
"These are your ideas. It’ll be a tradition that you all start. We can help get the word out and help
create it, but students will be the ones that have to go out and embrace it. We can’t do it without your help."