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Two police officers and a sittling suspect at the University riot.

Collaborating to stop the riots

From eNews, October 2, 2003

Riots following the 2002 and 2003 Gopher men's NCAA hockey championships outraged administrators, students, and the public and left the University's reputation bruised. But the U is hardly alone in dealing with the issue of out-of-control, seemingly inexplicable violence tied to sporting events. Sociologists have been studying the phenomenon of sports-related riots for years, but so far there is little in the way of concrete conclusions and definitive answers about either causes or solutions. Jerry Lewis, a sociology professor at Kent State University, says that some of the factors involved include a championship game, the presence of a natural urban gathering place, large groups of young males, and alcohol. Rioters may actually view their destructive acts as "feats of skill," which they see as extensions of or tributes to their college athlete models, Lewis suggests. "They also look to other fans who are observing for approval." The University is taking a multi-pronged approach to the problem this year, as well as collaborating with schools around the country. University officials and a student delegation recently participated in a student summit at the University of New Hampshire to promote responsible, alternative ways to celebrate. The U is co-hosting a conference at Ohio State in November on student conduct and riots, and is among 14 schools that are compiling and analyzing data related to riots for a Michigan State research project. University of Minnesota police have already held planning sessions with Minneapolis police to try to keep any future disturbances "under control before they develop," says U police chief George Aylward. He says the rioting trend is growing and must be broken. "It's a nationwide problem. It's scary in that if it becomes entrenched in the college undergraduate culture, we're going to have a heck of a time finding a remedy for it," says Aylward. Editor's note: "Reading the Riot Act," a longer version of this story by Burl Gilyard appears in the September-October 2003 issue of Minnesota, the UMAA magazine. To read the full story, see and click on Past Issues.

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