AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS, U.S.A. As a college student of Western Massachusetts, I must shake my head in dismay at the University of Massachusetts Amherst students and how they not only represented themselves as a student body, but also slaughtered the reputation of their beloved university during this year’s infamous UMass “Blarney Blowout” festival.

Because of increasingly popular films like Project X and Spring Breakers, media has tremendously distorted society’s views on college lifestyle, and what it means to be a college student in the United States. Perhaps these rumors can be contributed to the unacceptable actions that were displayed by the 4,000 UMass students during their annual pre-Saint Patrick’s day celebration on March 8th. Blarney’s is a chance for students to dress in their very best “Saint Patrick’s Day attire,” and parade from downtown Amherst bars to different locations on campus to celebrate the Irish-Catholic holiday and welcome spring.

This year’s “ZooMass” extravaganza was like no other. Students became enraged when the Amherst Police Department, UMass University Campus Police, and Massachusetts State Troopers attempted to disperse a group of 1,000 Blarney’s participants at an off-campus apartment due to its size and “assaultive behavior.” Angry students hurled verbal insults, beer bottles, cans, and snowballs at officials. A riot ensued and law enforcement officials resorted to using pepper spray to dismember the massive mob.

Claimed to be one of the “worst displays of widespread drunken violence in years,” the incident involved 58 arrests, injuries, severe alcohol intoxication, sexual assaults, excessive noise, property damage, and violence towards police officials. The incident quickly gained national attention with its shockingly high number of student arrests, rioting, claims of “police brutality,” and student protesting.

In a March 9th statement to the public, UMass Chancellor Subbaswamy expressed his furor stating that the university “condemns the outrageous behavior of those students who acted without any regard for public safety and the community in which they live.” According to spokesman Edward Blaguszewski students who were arrested would be reviewed under the school’s code of conduct, and sanctions could include suspension or expulsion.
Several days later, UMass students organized a peaceful student protest via the THIS IS UMASS Facebook page. On march 11th at 12:30 p.m. a large contingent marched from the Student Union building to Chancellor Subbaswamy’s office in the Whitmore Administration building to display their distaste for the methods utilized by the Amherst Police Department during the rioting, and “show the administration what the real Umass looks like; a proactive student body that won’t allow them to slander the Umass name.” Protestors carried signs and posters that read “If you don’t want us to be ZooMass, then don’t treat us like animals.”

A good many of these “beer goggled” protestors are going to see Chancellor Subbaswamy’s condemnation as a “bunch of blarney.” After all, aren’t they just adhering to cultural expectation that being “young, wild, and free,” is what college is all about? That is the alcohol talking. The last thing a community needs is a “holiday” excuse to add to the growing number of alcohol-related accidental deaths, suicides, assaults, and property destruction that comes with inebriation. Don’t act like an animal if you don’t want to be treated like one.

– Jordan Houston