University prepares for NCAA riots

By Jen Hirsch

‘ ‘ ‘ Saying they were embarrassed by the wake of destructive student riots, Pitt officials… ‘ ‘ ‘ Saying they were embarrassed by the wake of destructive student riots, Pitt officials formed the Celebration Task Force the day following the Super Bowl. ‘ ‘ ‘ Kathy Humphrey, the vice provost and dean of students, spearheaded this committee composed of University officials, students and community members concerned about Oakland’s well-being. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I was so disappointed after the Super Bowl,’ said Humphrey. ‘[The students] have left me no choice.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ This time around, there will be no room for disappointment if Pitt wins the championship game April 6. ‘ ‘ ‘ The University has adopted a no-tolerance policy for any type of dangerous celebrations. ‘ ‘ ‘ The Celebration Task Force’s approach is largely preemptive, aiming to transform the student mindset before the final NCAA game, said Humphrey. ‘ ‘ ‘ Posters will be placed in campus residence halls and buildings on Friday to remind students to celebrate responsibly. ‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt has looked to other schools as benchmarks for successful riot prevention. ‘ ‘ ‘ It modeled its advertising campaign after the University of Kansas’, said Humphrey. ‘ ‘ ‘ The members did not take to other ideas such as greasing telephone poles to prevent students from climbing them. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘If our teams win, we will have a celebration,’ she said, but it will be controlled by the University. ‘ ‘ ‘ Barricades will confine students to Bigelow Boulevard, between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union, where a large television will be installed so students can watch the post-game together. ‘ ‘ ‘ Whether the actual games will be shown depends on if enough student interest is generated, said Humphrey. ‘ ‘ ‘ A fireworks show will also follow if either the men’s or women’s basketball team wins the championship game. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I want [students] to have a fun and exciting celebration,’ said Humphrey. But she is also prepared to punish students if provoked. ‘ ‘ ‘ After the Super Bowl, several students were fined up to $500, put on probation and some even suspended.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ There were no expulsions, said Humphrey, but repeat-offenders will face this punishment if they damage the campus again. ‘ ‘ ‘ Being expelled means the student is a danger to our community and we can’t risk having him or her back, she said. ‘ ‘ ‘ First-time offenders should also consider the possible consequences of their actions, she said, because Pitt does not reimburse tuition during a suspension. ‘ ‘ ‘ Dave Jedlicka, president of the Oakland Zoo and a member of the Celebration Task Force, said he thought any student linked to destructive activity should be immediately expelled. ‘ ‘ ‘ He echoed Humphrey’s embarrassment and added that he hopes students can enjoy the team’s successes and celebrate Pitt’s next victory peacefully. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘There is no reason to put a black eye on the University,’ said Jedlicka. ‘ ‘ ‘ Beyond physical damage to Pitt’s campus, members of the Celebration Task Force are also worried about damage to the University’s reputation. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘We need students to demonstrate who we really are,’ said Humphrey. ‘We sent the community and the nation the wrong message.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ To stop Pitt from developing a tradition of destructive riots, the Celebration Task Force will target incoming students. ‘ ‘ ‘ Freshmen will be informed during orientation that the University does not condone rioting on any level, said Humphrey. ‘ ‘ ‘ The students are in control of Pitt’s reputation, so in the end, this all falls on them, she said. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘There is no excuse this time, you can’t say you didn’t know.’