An Open Letter to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens:
In the coming days a piece of legislation will be coming across your desk that on the surface may appear to be a good deal. The so-called “riot bill” (a.k.a. HB 1173) stipulates that students enrolled in higher education institutions across the state be suspended from school for one year if they are convicted of riot charges.
The Colorado Assembly has already given their approval to the bill, and all that is needed now is your signature for the “riot bill” to become the “riot law.”
Do not sign it.
This bill clearly is discriminatory against college students, as well as superfluous and unnecessary. Already college students in Colorado face disciplinary action from their schools if they are convicted on riot charges or any other felony charges, for that matter. Why should the state force the schools to do something that they already do anyway?
Universities and colleges across the state have the right to set their own disciplinary procedures for students. They should not be forced to implement a minimum punishment by the state for riots, but not for other equally serious or more heinous crimes such as sexual assaults, fraud or even murder.
In addition, this piece of legislation, though intended to be proactive, only provides for a retroactive punishment. Where is the language providing for further education or increased funding for police departments to help prevent riots from happening in the first place? Will a drunken college student think twice before starting a bonfire in the street because he or she might get suspended from school? We doubt it; no more than the thought of facing criminal charges might have given them pause.
The single largest problem we have with this bill, though, is that it blatantly discriminates against a certain group of people in Colorado: college students. We would be in favor of legislation providing for increased punishment for rioters in general, but the fact that this bill singles out college students for additional retribution makes it unfair. Those found guilty of inciting a riot, arming rioters or engaging in a riot are criminals, but students committing these same acts are not more criminal than those in the general population. This bill makes it sound like they are.
You have a responsibility to the citizens of Colorado to veto discriminatory legislation brought before you. We strongly encourage you to exercise this executive power.
The Rocky Mountain Collegian Editorial Board
Maria Sanchez-Traynor, Editor In Chief
Ben Koerselman, Campus Editor
Josh Hardin, State/Regional Editor
Zeb Carabello, News Managing Editor
Becky Waddingham, Night/Features Managing Editor
Kate Hunley, Assistant Night Managing Editor