Well, I don’t know exactly what I’d do. I have never been in those shoes and I never will be. However, there are a few things I certainly would do differently. Call me naive, but this could have all been avoided. It’s a matter of understanding the people you’re dealing with. Clearly the administration has never taken any of the 85 offered Communication classes that all teach this exact concept (and not much else).
I’ll start by saying that I was not involved in the now nationally known Blarney Blowout that took place on Saturday. I was in town, but I could have been in China and this would still be affecting me. As a senior, my job search just got a whole lot harder. Are UMass students to blame for this? Yes. Are Amherst College students to blame for this? Yes. Are thousands of visiting young people who have no association with this town to blame for this? Absolutely. Could the UMass Administration have handled it better? 110%.
But who’s taking the fall here? Aside from the ones who were arrested, all of those visitors get to go about their lives without their university’s (if they attend one) name being dragged through the mud. The poor administrators who are so “sad and disappointed” will still get their bonus checks as the applications will undoubtedly continue to roll in and the standard of admission increases. So that leaves us – the UMass students – innocent or not, to be the victims of the administration, the police, and the media.
If I were a UMass administrator I would never have sent that initial threatening email. This goes back to what I said about understanding who you’re working with. 9 times out of 10, if you tell an 18-22 year old not to do something “or else”, they’re going to do it anyway. If only the administration could see how many people were immediately mocking their threat with a “challenge accepted” attitude.
If I were a UMass administrator I would have compromised. How many students gather for UMass tailgates without any trouble? I would take the same approach as the one taken for tailgates: have your fun until ____ o’clock, and then you’re done. After that time, consequences may be implemented. Do it in this area so the town can be aware and police can be there in case of emergency or injury. The purpose of the police is to protect, not to instigate, which is exactly what they did on Saturday.
If I were a UMass administrator I would discourage the media rather than providing statements to sources as far and wide as Time Magazine and the LA Times. I would bring in students to speak with the media to provide a defense for the University, rather than vilifying them. I would make sure both sides of the story were heard. By turning themselves against the students, our administration made it worse for everyone.
These kinds of parties happen all across the country at countless universities. The difference has everything to do with the week leading up to the event: the alerting of the SWAT team, the threatening email, and the articles that hit the media before the event even happened. Were UMass students in the wrong in some instances? Yes.
But there are two sides to every story. So I’m sad and disappointed, too, Chancellor.