CU Boulder students frustrated, but not shocked by weekend riot – The Denver Post

When Lia Cioni opened Twitter on Sunday, she was confused to see the University of Colorado Boulder trending.

Cioni, a junior who transferred to CU Boulder last fall, was “baffled and deeply disappointed” when she found out why.

On Saturday night, Boulder police Chief Maris Herold estimates anywhere from 500 to 800 people — with very little mask wearing and no social distancing — gathered near Pennsylvania Avenue and 10th Street on University Hill.

Before the crowd dispersed, fireworks were set off and a car was flipped over. Three police officers were minorly injured, while many other cars plus a police vehicle and a Boulder Fire-Rescue engine were damaged. Trash and beer cans littered the street, prompting a community-wide cleanup on Sunday.

Considering it has begun vaccinating Boulder County residents, Boulder County Public Health and other city and county officials in public meetings have started making hopeful remarks. They reference the light at the end of the tunnel, the beginning of a time when the pandemic won’t be such a driving force in everyone’s life.

However, a number of the CU Boulder students who were not on the Hill on Saturday view what happened there as an impediment to any progress that’s been made.

“I’ve been looking forward to returning to in-person classes, and this feels like a big setback in the county’s efforts to slow the transmission of COVID,” Cioni said.

So far, CU Boulder officials are maintaining that the university plans to continue hosting some in-person classes. However, if that plan changes due to a rise in cases, as a surge in September forced the campus to change plans in the middle of the fall semester, graduate student Max Wolpert fears it could be detrimental.

“CU moving back to a fully-remote closed campus would represent a lot of lost opportunities for students across disciplines,” he said.

CU Boulder’s student government released a statement denouncing the incident. In a letter signed by student body presidents Amalia Frommelt, George Conway and Isaiah Chavous, the student government said it was “deeply disturbed and disappointed” by what happened.

“You have embarrassed this University, you have embarrassed your peers, you have destroyed a beloved residential and historical area of our community and you have jeopardized the safety and health of your neighbors and community at large,” the letter states.

Further, the letter calls out the Boulder Police Department and the University of Colorado Boulder Police Department for what student leadership called a larger concerning trend of there “being a lack of enforcement or intervention of large-scaled gatherings that clearly break the ordinances and restrictions that have been placed on the city of Boulder.”

While the Boulder Police Department has jurisdiction over the area, CU Boulder Police intends to work with Boulder Police to increase patrols on University Hill moving forward, according to CU Boulder spokesperson Andrew Sorensen.

“We share in the desire to prevent disturbances like we saw Saturday from occurring in the future,” Sorensen noted.

The Undergraduate Interfraternity Council at the University of Colorado also released a statement condemning the actions of the students who rioted on the Hill. The letter states that the actions of those students cast all students in a negative light and that the organization is angered that police officers were injured.

It goes on to request that discussions between Boulder County Public Health, the Boulder Police Department and CU Boulder continue to explore ways to prevent any future problems.

“Unfortunately, the sudden arrival of nice weather combined with the lack of a spring break in the University’s calendar following months of restrictive confinement for all students resulted in Saturday night’s riot,” the letter states.

Interfraternity Council on the Hill Greek Advocate Marc Stine disagreed with the notion that mentioning the weather and the lack of a spring break might be seen as an excuse for the behavior.

“It’s not an excuse. It’s a reason. And there’s a difference,” Stine said. “Part of the reason for the behaviors that you’re seeing in Boulder and around the country by college students is that in fighting the pandemic, those in charge have not always taken into account the impact of their decisions on 18- to 24-year-old students.”

He believes students should play a larger role in the university’s decision-making process.

In a community meeting Monday night, Councilmember Mark Wallach acknowledged that most people can recall a time they made a decision they’re not proud of in college but went on to share his contempt for what happened on Saturday.

“It was a disaster of a day, and it’s a disaster for Boulder. The fact that we made the national news in this kind of negative way is not something you ever want to see,” he said. “What happened is way beyond normal college student behavior.”

Several students said they were not surprised to learn about what happened on Saturday. Among them was senior Evan Battey, who plays on CU Boulder’s basketball team.

“I’m not surprised because I know our school,” he said. “I wasn’t angry at it. I can understand it kind of. They’re tired of being locked up in the house. But just ’cause you’re tired of it doesn’t mean it’s over.”

For Battey, it’s about collective accountability. For example, he’s played nearly every basketball game in front of an empty stadium.

“It’s (about) more than just you,” he said.

Sophomore Anya Margolis agreed. She was bothered by what happened but not surprised.

“Many CU students are so focused on partying and having the ‘real college party experience’ that they don’t think about other people,” Margolis said.

Similarly, junior Tucker Harju wasn’t surprised to hear about a large party on the Hill. However, he was surprised to see footage of “just how destructive things became.”

“Once I began to see footage of the car that was flipped, and eventually the violence towards first responders, I grew incredibly embarrassed,” Harju said. “It shames me that I attend the same institution as people who act that way given the global circumstances.”

It’s not the first time CU Boulder has made news during the pandemic. The September surge included the university becoming the site of the largest coronavirus outbreak in the state, which has not been resolved. It led to Boulder County banning all gatherings for Boulder residents between the ages of 18 and 22 through Oct. 20 and issuing stay-at-home orders to more than 30 University Hill residences.

It can be frustrating for students. Wolpert noted that the vast majority of CU students who have been observing public health regulations are often the ones most hurt — whether by increased risk of exposure, lost opportunities due to harsher restrictions or both.

Plus, the pandemic has required sacrifices from everyone.

“There are people who have said goodbye to dying family members via Zoom,” Wolpert said. “It is not too much to ask students to not throw massive, out-of-hand ragers for another couple months, and for people to act like it is is frankly reprehensible.”

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