University, city react to weekend fires
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 07:10
Continuing the recent upswing in inappropriate celebratory behavior, the Morgantown Fire and Police Departments responded to 35 malicious street fires Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Five individuals were charged with malicious burning, 10 other arrests were made, and various citations were issued.
Among the individuals charged with the felony, four were West Virginia University students.
The weekend’s events have brought into question WVU student behavior, the city’s preparedness and the University’s disciplinary process.
"I don’t understand it. I’ve been working with the fire problem for the majority of my career, and there’s a lot of people involved. It’s a collective effort between the city and the University and the students," said Morgantown Fire Department Captain Ken Tennant. "They need to stop doing this before someone gets killed."
Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla said he was alarmed by the behavior Saturday night and into early Sunday morning. Manilla said he believed the city is in dire need of more public officials.
As a remedy to the situation, Manilla discussed collaborating with the University and imposing a possible $20 student fee to fund salaries for increased public officials in the city.
"(Saturday night,) all the policemen and all the firemen were out responding to this. Who was out patrolling the other neighborhoods? It’s not fair; it’s not fair to the citizens of Morgantown," he said. "This fee may not be popular, but we’re at a point where we can’t keep doing this."
Manilla applauded the WVU Student Government Association’s effort in its recent "Save a couch, don’t burn one" video; however, he said he believed it’s going to take more than that to control student behavior.
"I thought that video was fantastic," he said. "This is something I would like to sit down and discuss with the SGA. If this is the way – the direction council wants to go – then I would love to involve students in the discussion."
During Monday’s State of the University Address, WVU President James P. Clements discussed students’ post-game behavior, and the University’s course of action in response to the issue.
"The worst of the post-game behavior Saturday night was completely unacceptable, dangerous and inexcusable," Clements said. "We cannot and will not tolerate it. These actions are dangerous. And they diminish the successes of our students, faculty, staff and alumni."
In response to the events, Clements said the University would be increasing efforts in alcohol education and enforcement, increasing security presence and use of surveillance cameras and strengthening expulsion and student discipline policies.
Clements said during the 2011-12 school year 40 students were suspended or expelled from the University for behavior violations.
"I am angry and frustrated," he said. "I want you to know, the University is taking immediate action to identify and discipline any students involved. Student Affairs is moving promptly and resolutely to investigate the problems that happened Saturday night and will take immediate and strong actions within our disciplinary process.
And as a University, we are asking anyone with any information – including pictures and recordings – to provide those to the WVU Police."
Those with video, pictures or information regarding the weekend’s events are encouraged to contact the Morgantown City Police Department at 304-284-7522 or call the fire department’s arson tip line at 304-225-3586.