Monday, April 4, 2011

Riot at VCU

Part of VCU at Broad Street in calmer times.

It is not a secret that two of our children are graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. VCU is the largest university in Virginia. It has an excellent medical school, and a dental school, and a very wide range of college majors. One of the reasons that we relocated to Virginia when the older children were small, is that this state offers almost any conceivable college major. (Veterinary Medicine is covered at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Law School can either be attended at University of Richmond, or at University of Virginia in Charlottesville) Pretty much, any other major, including varieties of engineering and informatics are covered at VCU. It also has a highly rated art school, also with a broad variety of art majors. The sculpture department, for example, is rated as the top undergraduate sculpture program among public universities in the United States. This spurs a number of foreign students in attendance as well. Presently, there are 34,000 students attending, during any one semester. This is a completely decentralized campus in an urban setting. On one corner there may be an official office of the college of some kind, and next door might be an African grocery store. It is a completely porous campus where students, and just about anyone can enter or exit many areas at will. In addition, Richmond still has many of the cobblestoned narrow streets and multiple insensible "One Way" signs, and traffic circles. The first year one of the kids were there,and I would come on occasion, to help them buy supplies, and to have lunch with them, I remember thinking that they should confer a degree just to anyone who'll navigate the roads there. Students there routinely get parking tickets, not becessarily because they park in the wrong places, but because often, there is nowhere to park. It can also be a dangerous campus. Both my older kids can tell pretty scary stories concerning robberies, and the activities of peculiar people who often don't have anything to do with the university, but frequent Monroe Park which is on the edge of the university. During my son's time there, a sculpture major,(Tyler Binstead), who had a studio next to my sons, was robbed and shot to death in the back, in Monroe Park in front of his girlfriend. The year before that a new student disappeared and was found murdered. (Taylor Biel) It was eventually found that she was acquainted with her killer, a former VCU art student. This past year, a British exchange student disappeared on his bicycle.(Jonathan Dorey, also known as Jonny Dorey from Guernsey, England) His bicycle and backpack was found near the James River near the campus. His whereabouts or his body, never have been.
Still, Virginia Law excludes carrying a handgun for protection there, even for those of us who have a Concealed Weapons Permit. This is especially ironic because this is really where you would want to carry one, and some people in the area, just do anyway.
Despite all this, Daniel wanted to study Kinetic Studies there, and planned to. Our son Matt went to college elsewhere, vowing never to attend a place with so many people which seemed so chaotic and such a large machine which can be difficult to navigate at times, due to its clearly decentralized nature. The first year our daughter was there, she had classes in three different zip codes.
This week, VCUs basketball team got down to the final four. This is apparently a great honor. Students gathered for one of these games. Our kids did not travel there to attend, but some of their friends did. At one point, students began removing their clothes and burning them in boxes. They started fires in the streets and let off fireworks in dense crowds. They broke windows. Some threw bricks at police. According to "The Chicago Tribune", they set fire to people's trashcans. Swat and Riot Teams were mobilized and tear gas and rubber bullets were used. One of our friend's kids was hurt by the tear gas.
Multiple versions of this event are found on YouTube. I am bothered by a number of things. First, in a country which is nearly bankrupt, in a state where we are almost out of money, who allocated funds for riot police, SWAT teams and every group of Virginia police who were all drawing overtime that night ? Who is paying for these police and the multiple cannisters of tear gas which cost at least seventy dollars a can ? Secondly, was anyone arrested ? It strikes me that setting fire to things, stripping and letting of fireworks in disorderly crowds endangers the shops on the street as well as other people. Some of them behaved like houligans. This was disorderly conduct if ever there was any. Lastly, if you don't have enough room to imvite VCU students to a game without routinely calling riot police, which I am told is done, then you should rethink having sporting events in Richmond entirely. I know that some of the young people present on these videos are area young people, and not VCU students, however, these did not seem like our best or our brightest. If losing a game to Butler University in the final four games results in this kind of tantrum-like behavior, I am terrified to think about what would happen if something occured that was worth demonstrating about ? VCU has released a statement saying that the bulk of their staff and students this night "behaved responsibly". Unfortunately, VCU Administration has a time honored tradition of covering over things which are unpleasant for them, or hurt their bottom line.
I am just thankful to have our kids out of there. At one time, I thought about arranging a scholarship for a promising student in Kinetic Imaging at VCU, in Daniel's name. I think I'll look for somewhere else. This place doesn't look like it espouses any of our values......and I am not that inflexible.

VCU Riot after 2011 Final Four from MONDIAL on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. What is really alarming is the fact that no one mentions what the crowd did. They trashed police vehicle, threw rocks, and threw a brick which broke a cops hand. Be fore this night, the got a fire extinguisher out and used it stopped a vehicle with a mother and daughter in it, and proceeded to dance on the roof of their car. This caused the mother and child to run in fear. be fore that they flipped a car over. Funny that none of that info makes it on the news though.


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