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Gottlieb: Lessons learned in the wake of Pumpkin Fest 2014

The Durham 500

By Greg Gottlieb

Did you see that email from President Huddleston about Keene’s Pumpkin Fest? What ever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?” “Don’t Keene law officials have better things to do than to track down a couple of people who celebrated in the streets?”

Grow up.

If you’ve read some of my past columns, you might know I tend to disagree with the university from time to time. If you know me, you know that I have a very strong, oftentimes militant opposition to law enforcement in many capacities. Even as a law-abiding citizen, I have found myself in disagreement with many activities of the police forces I have watched operate. To this end, I must admit that some of us self-governing, rather rebellious Generation Y-ers tend to walk with a chip on our shoulder, waiting for an authoritative body’s next uncalled for flex of a muscle.

This was not the case last weekend in Keene.

I have never been to Pumpkin Fest, I have never been to Keene, and all I have as evidence for the happenings last weekend are pictures and news reports. I certainly don’t have much room to speak on the matter, yet, I do feel qualified to draw one simple conclusion: College students drank excessively (fine), they got disorderly (still fine, in my opinion), and they engaged in criminal and malicious activity that resulted in immeasurable damage to property and numerous bodily injuries (not fine). My hat goes off to the students who helped in righting the wrong by lending a hand in the cleanup efforts after the storm had subdued.

President Huddleston’s email to all University of New Hampshire students was one of good intent and carried a very valuable message. As cheesy as it might sound, this student body exists most efficiently and in the safest way as a family, wherein we are constantly looking out for and supporting one another.

Think about what it might be like to see that unmistakable gray and dark blue “UNH Wildcats” across someone’s chest while waiting to board your plane in an airport somewhere in the world a decade from now. That feeling of knowing someone before you’ve said a word to them is an awesome one. We might feel that connection to a stranger in a UNH shirt years and miles away from now, but we’re desensitized to our familial nature as we go about our lives in this small college town. This is why a reminder like the one from our university’s lead administrator we received on Wednesday shouldn’t be perceived as one of incrimination nor any sort of misuse of authority.

If anything, not discussing the unfortunate events that occurred that weekend would have raised eyebrows. After all, most of our Instagrams and news feeds were full of pictures and updates from our UNH classmates who made the trek to Keene for the festivities. It was hardly a Keene-isolated incident. If it were your car that was flipped and totaled or your head concussed by a beer bottle, you may be seeking justice for the person responsible, too.

My birthday is Cinco de Mayo. You better believe that I spent my holiday sophomore year on Strafford Avenue with hordes of my classmates celebrating Mexico’s victory at the battle of Puebla; and yes, I left that day with a welt on my ankle from a small rubber ball of tear gas. In my opinion, having not seen that day, the type of violence and destruction that Pumpkin Fest 2014 saw, that was an aggressive use of force on the part of our joint-jurisdiction police departments. Perhaps a more appropriate venue for that type of police force is one wherein a college campus community is being destroyed before the very eyes and the very hands of its own members.

Greg Gottlieb is a senior hospitality management major who comments on noteworthy topics in the UNH and Durham communities. Follow Greg on Twitter @gottliebgregory.

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