Monday, the fallout from the Homecoming incident continued its slow march towards… well we still aren’t sure where we are headed. President Soltzand the Bloomsburg administration hope to move forward and leave this mess behind us. The company line seems to be “we have to take steps to ensure this won’t happen again.” The student body however, wants to know how this happened to begin with and who is to blame.
Apparently, no one ever taught us how to remove a band-aid. Instead of quickly acting to find a solution, we are instead embroiled in a never-ending discussion that is slowly causing more pain than good.
I don’t have all the answers. All I can offer is an outsider’s perspective. I do not hold a position in President Soltz’s staff nor do I have a stake in his argument. I don’t belong on the other side either as this debate quickly transformed from a student versus administration battle into a racial issue. So in an attempt to try to move this discussion forward, let me try to say what both sides can’t.
To President Soltz: I understand that it is a tough question to answer, but how were you not more prepared when a student questioned whether you personally believed that excessive force was used that night? I know you want to stand by your students without condemning your police force . You are stuck between that proverbial “rock and a hard place.”
So explain the problem. Unfortunately, we will never know what really happened that night. We have to live with that fact. Was excessive force used? Through videos with little context and conflicting testimonies, it could be assumed yes. Still, this was an event with a history of violence. Giving past incidents, could we blame the police force for being more on edge than usual?
We could go this route, back and forth forever and get nowhere. We don’t know, nor will we ever know the truth of what took place. What we do know is that the incident was unfortunate and embarrassing. As is true in most controversies, blame most likely can be found on both sides.
So President Soltz, apologize that this happened, but do not place blame. Admit that Bloomsburg failed to provide a safe environment for the students, but do not make assumptions as to who was right and who was wrong. Most importantly, stop jerking the students around. Do not take months addressing an issue that needed and still needs immediate attention. Do not dress up the issue with fancy and misleading terms such as “Campus Climate Report.” Don’t hide the results on Blackboard and our library, making it difficult for the non-Bloomsburg community to learn more about the investigation. Accurately explain beforehand what we are hoping to address at these meetings and inform us on what will not be discussed. Do not allow students to attend with unrealistic expectations of what will be achieved. This only builds more tension.
Finally, please come prepared. Take enough time to review the material so you do not have to consult with your advisors after tough questions. Show enough respect for the issue to know the report front and back. This is the first major crisis of your tenure here. Treat it that way.
To the Students: I am truly sorry what happened and I appreciate that range of emotions you must be feeling. Still, I respectfully ask you to get your act together. This argument will forever be a case of “He-said, She-said.” Well, in the court of public opinion you are defeating yourselves.
When your credibility is your main piece of persuasion, don’t come to an official hearing using childish language. (No, I am not “freaking kidding” you.) Do not waste precious time making your grand and poetic monologues. You are not Dr. King and your time will be better spent demanding answers from the administration.
Stop complaining about needing more time to review documents, and then ignore information that is directly presented to you. This means, when President Soltz says Chief Sokoloski is not in attendance, do not ask five minutes later for him to stand up and face the crowd. When we are told there will be no water cannons, do not ask what events will have water cannons.
Finally, for goodness sake stop referring to Block Party. Block Party is not affiliated with the University. It is an off-campus event where BU police have no jurisdiction. And stop with the horses! Horses have been used at Block Party and Homecoming for years. Their presence was not unique to the incident last November. The fact that you have “never seen a horse before” is irrelevant. I have never seen South Dakota, but that doesn’t mean it is not there.
I ask you to make your motives clear. I believed that the goal all along has been to identify the causes of these problems and to ensure such an incident never takes place in the future. After attending Monday’s discussion, I think I may have been mistaken.
It seemed as if a majority of those in attendance were looking for a scapegoat in this mess. Several speakers scoffed at the list of recommendations offered. Many were more concerned with placing blame rather than making changes.
If this becomes a quest for pity or revenge, well that is a cause I can not stand behind. That is a selfish mindset. We need to strive for progress. We need to address weaknesses in our community. We need healthy and constructive discussions. We cannot have finger pointing and “woe is me” speeches.
Just as they were the night of this incident, both sides are wrong now in the fallout. The administration has operated at a frustratingly slow place and has left the students unsatisfied. The students have built up unrealistic expectations and have hampered progress through petty arguments. Both sides are dangerously out of touch with the other.
Maybe that is why we have this problem to begin with.