I am all about perspective-taking. I am all about meeting students where they’re at. I am all about challenging my own assumptions.
But sometimes, it’s a struggle. And this past week was a real struggle.
You might have heard that UConn is the basketball capital of the world. Last week, both our men’s and women’s teams won the NCAA championship, two nights in a row. On Monday night, when the men won, I got several messages that had the tone of condolences from colleagues from around the country. There was a meme of the salute from the Hunger Games; everyone was thinking of the ResLife staff as our students rioted. Let’s just say that these expressions of support were well-deserved.
Over the course of history, there have been many times when college campuses have become violent or out of control. Many of these times have been tragedies that shake my soul to its core. Many of these times have been political and social protests during which the injustices of our society become just too much to bear on the backs of young people.
And many of these happen because a bunch of people get drunk and their team wins (or loses) the big game.
Now, I’ve had my share of drunken nights. I’ve had my share of excitement over a whole variety of things, sports included. But I really cannot even fathom what is happening psychologically and physiologically to make someone want to rip a tree/stop sign/light post out of the ground in response to a basketball game. Also, here’s an important note: When the women win the national championship (which they do on a pretty regular basis, Tuesday night included), the same degree of destruction and nonsense just does not happen. Which leads me to believe that all of this has a lot to do with gender.
So, are men biologically more prone to rip lightposts out of the ground? I’m not an expert on that, but I’m pretty sure no. Do we, as a society, associate dominance and winning with shows of masculinity and masculinity with violence, destruction, and brute force? Yup.
This campus is supposed to be a safe place. It’s supposed to be a place where my students don’t have to worry about getting hit in the head by flying rocks. It’s supposed to be a place where I don’t have to tell young men to not rip trees out of the ground on a Monday night. A place where we don’t break windows and light fires, just because we are excited.
I cannot begin to really understand why certain types of behavior occurred over the past week. Much of it disappoints me. Much of it scares me. However, I see this as part of a larger conversation. One about bystanders. One about what it means for young men to experience emotion. One about personal responsibility and obligation to one’s community.
If I see another National Championship at UConn, I hope to see a less broken and damaged campus.