This week we have a topic that is not so sunny, but certainly important and close to me: Should the University of Connecticut allow Spring Weekend this year in the wake of Jafar Karzoun's death?
As a recent alumna of UConn, I feel like I am stuck in the middle of this issue. First of all, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the Karzoun family. I can't even imagine what your pain must be like. I think that if I were in the same situation, I would react similarly. How could such a young man leave us in such a way?
As a former UConn student, I saw Spring Weekend from many different angles. As a freshman, I was introduced to the traditions of the two days close to finals: the carnivals on the vast green campus, the events in the Student Union, and of course, Oozeball (mud volleyball), which I played with friends from the honor fraternity of which I was a part.
Starting sophomore year, I began to see Spring Weekend in a new light when I was hired as a community assistant. There were the long hours of being on duty, monitoring the residents and the guests they brought into their home away from home. My role changed to one of a mother duck of sorts: I was watching out for the ducklings.
I've heard many varying opinions from students about Spring Weekend: those who see it as the greatest, most carefree weekend of their lives, and others who see it as a traditional weekend gone wrong, leading to violence and debauchery.
I can see both points of view. Indeed, there have been countless issues with Spring Weekend "activities" that are not sanctioned by the university. Events like these lead to the negatives associated with the weekend, stamping UConn with the "party school" reputation it has been plagued with for years.
For me, UConn was not a party school. It was not a party school because I didn't make it that. Sure, I enjoyed my college years, but I worked hard and made choices I thought were right. Jafar made a decision to stay for Spring Weekend to help with a group project, and that was responsible of him, as he considered his academic dreams before any other, which is why any student chooses to go to college.
It's those students who make poor decisions who ruin long-standing traditions. Often, it's the guests that are brought to campus, like the man who threw the punch. I've always thought that UConn needs to make efforts to rein in the number of guests who can be brought to campus during Spring Weekend, and the university has made some changes over the years. I think, perhaps, UConn should not allow non-student guests on Spring Weekend for however long it permits to have some of the chaos die down.
I will say this: I am a proud UConn Husky. UConn itself doesn't sponsor or promote the events that bring the problems on Spring Weekend. In fact, the university promotes safe, fun events that foster student celebration. The university gives away free stuff (goldfish, anyone?) and lets you roll around with your best friends in mud! The problem comes when these events fall unattended, are abandoned for the lure of non-sponsored UConn events that can lead to irresponsible behaviors.
So, to answer the question: I do not think that Spring Weekend should be called off. If it were, the university and students would miss out on a fantastic opportunity to redefine what the weekend means, as well as a wonderful tradition. The positive thing is that UConn is home to a thriving student body, young men and women who aren't afraid to speak their minds. There needs to be more conversation among students about Spring Weekend and how it should be reshaped. If students change their focus, choose to celebrate the positive Spring Weekend traditions that have been alive for years, the face of the weekend can be remolded. This, I believe, would be the greatest tribute to Jafar and the university.
This subject is extremely close to me as well, but for different reasons. I never attended UConn Storrs, but my sister did graduate there in 2003 and I have been there for Spring Weekend before. With all that has happened there over the past few years, culminating with the death of Jafar Karzoun, I still tend to agree with you on the matter of whether to end Spring Weekend.
First of all, UConn should not be looked at as a school, but as a bustling city. With about 28,000 students attending college, the university is comparable to a mid-size Connecticut town. With all of the people going to school there, and even more importantly, all trying to have a good time, there is sure to be a number of incidents. Spring Weekend is only different because of the number of people who attend who are not affiliated with the school.
There are a few things about this topic that I do have other views on, however. Most importantly, this is not the first time an incident like this has happened. I recall from the past, that each and every year either my sister or I attended Spring Weekend at UConn, the event ended with riot police pouring on the scene to try to calm a crowd that "rowdy" would far underestimate. Bottles were thrown, fights broke out, and fires were lit. This occurs each and every year at UConn Spring Weekend, in my experience.
Now people may ask: why do these kids partake in such childish behavior? There is a simple answer to this boggling question: sheer alcohol consumption. Although you witnessed benevolent events around campus during Spring Weekend, I saw a majority of much more menacing dealings. Although I never personally witnessed Mud Volleyball, I was present for Kill-A-Keg and X-Lot as well as parties at UConn's Carriage Houses. The point of these parties is not to socialize, but more to drink to a point of complete inebriation. X-Lot is a parking lot where people from all over Connecticut find their clans and party with them. I remember many years where kids from Milford would all meet at their own "light post," as did kids from other cities. If representing your city while completely intoxicated isn't asking for trouble, I don't know what is. I won't even get into detail of what Kill-A-Keg is. I will only tell you that once you are in, nobody leaves until ALL the kegs are empty.
So what can UConn do as a school to make sure this tragic event never occurs again? The first thing is control the crowd size. According to wikipedia.com, "it should be noted that the vast majority of incidents of property destruction and unruliness are perpetrated by individuals not associated with the university." The next thing is make students accountable for their actions. There needs to be a strict policy of consequence for breaking the rules on Spring Weekend. Maybe this will hold students responsible for their actions so the death of Jafar is not in vain.
Michael L. Majlak