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Opinion: I’m a CU Boulder student. We need accountability for last weekend’s riot.

At a time when many can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, the selfish actions of a few hundred students could jeopardize the progress we’ve made.

An anonymous image of a crowd of people on Boulder's University Hill on Saturday, March 6, 2021, posted by the City of Boulder.

There aren’t enough words to describe how I feel about the party-turned-riot that occurred near the University of Colorado Boulder campus on the night of March 6. It was a night that saw hundreds of maskless students gather to drink, destroy cars and assault others.

Many have already shared the same sentiments as me. “Disappointing,” “frustrated,” “sick.” I wish I could tell you that I’m shocked by the night’s events. But I’m not.

Robert Tann

This isn’t the first time that CU Boulder students have so brazenly disregarded public health guidelines to party despite a deadly pandemic that has now taken the lives of over 6,000 Coloradans. 

Since last St. Patrick’s Day, just days after COVID-19 had forced CU Boulder to halt in-person learning and urged students to return home, students have been throwing parties that continue to endanger people’s lives.

There was St. Patrick’s Day. Then graduation in May. And several more parties during the fall. Rarely did CU Boulder publicly announce they had done anything to punish these students. And now we’ve witnessed the repercussions of an administration unwilling to crack down on reckless behavior.

March 6’s event has the potential to be a superspreader for COVID-19, and with the university recently bringing back many in-person classes, it poses a huge risk to the entire community. 

Now is the time for CU Boulder to make an example of students who put other people’s lives in danger and ensure these events do not continue.

So far, the university has said it will only pursue expulsions for those that damaged property or caused physical harm. But administrators need to go further and make sure there are repercussions for all those who attended March 6’s party.

This isn’t unprecedented. Many schools across the country have taken the pandemic seriously and punished students who willfully ignore public health guidance and their university’s own rules. 

Ohio State University has issued more than 200 interim suspensions for students who attended off-campus parties. Pennsylvania State University suspended a fraternity for holding an event with 70 people, a fraction of what we saw on University Hill last weekend.

If these institutions can hold students accountable for their actions, so can CU Boulder. Failure to do so will only send a clear message to these students that they can get away with anything. And there will be repeat offenders.

We have seen a poor track record from the university when it comes to creating a safer environment for its students. We must never forget about Sigma Pi, the fraternity on University Hill that was accused by five CU Boulder students of drugging them while at a party in 2018.

Despite uproar and the closing of the fraternity’s Boulder chapter, the university never publicly announced punishments of any students allegedly involved. Silence is complicity and it enables a culture of perceived impunity for abusers to continue to exist.

At a time when many can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, the selfish actions of a few hundred students could jeopardize the progress we’ve made. Those actions are a spit in the face of all those who have unfairly suffered because of this disease.

CU Boulder must take a stand. Will it finally say enough is enough? Or will it continue to allow privileged students to endanger the lives of others?


Robert Tann is a journalism student and senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. 


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