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Morgantown Riots: Finding A Constructive Solution To Destruction

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There needs to be more than calls for expulsion, more than telling people to grow up. Words aren't going to stop the idea that wanton destruction is a WVU tradition. It needs to be reined in and controlled by the University by proactive, not reaction measures.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A long time ago, long before my time at WVU, there was something called the Grant Street Block Party. Thousands of students and non-students would storm Grant Street in Sunnyside and celebrate the beginning of a new school year in Morgantown. It was bedlam, and it would grow out of hand year in and year out.

The university created FallFest in response, and laid a death blow to the unsanctioned block party. People may or may not like who the University brings in to perform each year, but the end result is undeniable. Students have a University sanctioned, contained outlet for their desire to get really drunk and celebrate on the first Monday of the fall semester. It works. While the next day police blotter can be interesting, there's no reports of thousands of dollars of property damage and no national news reports to wake up to.

What we saw Saturday night into Sunday morning is unacceptable. It's been unacceptable every single time it's happened. Of course every one who played a major role in the fires and property destruction should be expelled and prosecuted. That's obvious, and investigations will happen and these kids won't make it to WVU for the spring semester. That doesn't mean that it's over.

It's not enough to call for the kids to "grow up." Because, for the most part, the kids tangentially involved in these "celebrations" are going to grow up. They're going to experience college, make more idiotic mistakes, learn from most of them, mature, graduate (hopefully), get married, get a job, and raise a family. The problem is, they get replaced with 18 year old kids who haven't grown up yet (who has, at that age?) and see these riots and parties and go, "Damn, that looks like fun," and the cycle continues. 

The kids that deserve to get expelled and punished are going to be expelled and punished, but it's a short term solution to a long term problem.

West Virginia University needs to pull a FallFest out of its hat. Some way to contain these celebrations to one spot and eliminate the destruction that comes with riots on High Street and Grant Avenue. Schools have bonfires all the time and they do it without cars getting flipped and dumpsters getting rolled down through downtown.

I haven't figured out a concrete idea of where and how you implement this kind of thing, but open discussion by University leaders and the public is necessary. One thing is certain, though. WVU needs to find a spot that can be easily controlled and contained, and one that's easily accessed by both students and the public. Frankly, that rules out the Mountainlair Green--the site of Fallfest. It's easily accessed by students, but not to the public, especially on game days. Plus, I feel as though having something like a celebration bonfire so close to a ton of University buildings could be a recipe for disaster. Let's not destroy Clark Hall.

My vote, for what it's worth, is the new Rec Center field. It's walking distance from the Stadium, Towers, and two PRT stations. It's a relatively open area away from the bar scene, and crowd control is easy. Have Holgo and crew come over and give speeches when their post game duties are over. Fire up your fanbase without literally setting fire to your city.

Does this solve everything straight away? Of course not. FallFest didn't immediately fix the first week problems in Sunnyside, either. But what is does is start a tradition. A real tradition, one without tear gas and rubber bullets, but one where we can sing Country Roads around a fire (that may or may not contain some furniture) and enjoy our place among the big guys in college football.

I know that this isn't the most detailed plan, but that wasn't my intention. I want to start a discussion. What type of event do the fans think WVU can plan and execute to curtail this stuff?

I love West Virginia University. I've been a West Virginian since the day I was born, and nothing will ever change that part of me. I realize the perception my school has, and I realize that it's going to come up in job interviews. Telling people to grow up won't change that, because words alone aren't going to stop this cycle. West Virginia University needs a plan, more than expel and punish those who did it this time, because they're just going to be replaced. So, this is your forum, By-Godders. Let's think something up and maybe, just maybe, we make a difference for our school.