The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 28th

Bill Could Deter Colorado Campus Riots

The bill would ban students convicted of rioting from receiving financial aid and in-state tuition rates for a period of 12 months.

Admission to college could also be denied to students with prior riot convictions.

Colorado Rep. Don Lee, a Republican who proposed the bill, said it is being considered because of an increased rioting problem on campuses in the Colorado University system.

"There has been an increased pattern of riot activities in college towns," Lee said. "We feel people convicted of these behaviors should not have a subsidized education for 12 months."

Lee described the recent riots celebrating sporting victories as a "war-like situation."

He said the riots have caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage including the ceremonial burning of couches and trash cans.

Lee added that sometimes the riots have become violent, resulting in minor injuries and a fractured skull of a police officer.

Lieutenant Tim McGraw, Chief Administrator for the Colorado University Police Department in Boulder, said there have been more prevalent and frequent incidents of riots since 1997.

He said that since then there have been one or two riots a year on average, most of which resulted in light property damage.

Lee said the bill was designed to protect the community and not meant to prevent free expression or student protest.

"It certainly would not inhibit protesting in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi," Lee said.

But student leaders say the University of Colorado has already taken steps to prevent rioting.

Melissa Sampson, University of Colorado student union director of legislative affairs, said there were already consequences in place at the university level.

She said students convicted of rioting in student court could receive punishments like suspension or expulsion.

Sampson said the student government at UC-Boulder has passed a resolution against the bill.

"Something needs to be done about rioting," Sampson said. "However, there are more people involved in the riots than students -- there are also other members of the community."

Sampson said she was also concerned that the bill imposed economic discrimination.

"The sanctions are only financial," she said. "Therefore, the law could discriminate against certain segments of the student population."

Sampson said the most recent riot took place when UC-Boulder won the Big 12 football championship.

Other riots have been incited by Colorado teams' win of the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup, she said.

All of the specific rioting prohibitions in the bill are already felonies under Colorado law except for one: "the failure to disperse," which is a misdemeanor.

Sampson said people in student government are working to have the bill amended to exclude this classification.

Lee said he expects the bill to pass after being amended in the state Senate. He said the bill would be good for the citizens of Colorado, and he encouraged other states to explore the idea.

"It's a matter of good fiscal policy," he said. "Hopefully, it'll deter rioting."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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