I attended a deliberation presented by students in Kate Rosenberg’s RCL II class on Thursday, March 3rd.
The presentation focused on an interesting, timely and relevant topic: riots in downtown state college and how our community can come together to stop them. The team was well prepared and efficiently organized.
Riots after football games and in pursuit of supposedly murderous clowns have become a massive problem in our community and are responsible for massive amounts of damage on Beaver Avenue and other close, off-campus locations. Penn State has made national news several times over the course of this school year because of these riots, and the fact that they have become so common is understandably alarming to many.
Each of the deliberation team’s approaches focused on a different solution to the problem, from the University itself taking action and creating strict policies to combat rioters, to the local police and county being prepared to prevent riots in the first place, to both organizations working together to build trust and understanding between borough citizens and students. Questions were posed to the audience at the end of each approach, and thoughtful discussion followed each bout of information.
The team did an excellent job of inviting high-profile local figures to the event, with Mayor Goreham and several police department administrators in attendance.The law enforcement officials were adamant that the rioters be treated as criminals and that students learn to obey police orders in riot situations, and I thought it was incredibly professional of the group to invite them and encourage them to offer their own input with regard to the issue because they’ve experienced the riots first hand.
Several State College residents attended the event as well, and offered their own opinions and perspective regarding the riots and what they think should be done to combat them. Hearing from people who have been directly affected by the riots tell their own stories and voice their concerns about property damage helped me to understand the true extent of the damage caused by the riots and why it is so important that they must be stopped.
The deliberation was run smoothly and, at times, grew passionate. The local residents were obviously angered by the riots and it was good to see that the forum was serving as an actual outlet where they could voice their concerns.
The group did an excellent job of presenting relevant information concisely. But I think they could’ve improved the discussion portion of their presentation by allowing the conversation to flow without constantly trying to divert it back to the discussion questions they had prepared prior to the event. The team cut off several meaning conversations that were relevant to the whole deliberation for the sake of sticking to their plan, and I think this was detrimental with regard to proposing the maximum number of solutions to the problem.
I was most impressed by the group’s topic. Downtown riots are timely, local and affect lots of state college residents, and for this reason the conversation was informative and productive. I hope that the group will present its findings to policy makers who will make the most of the information, because the deliberation participants proposed several thoughtful and practical solutions to State College’s riot problem.