I am not a political activist, but I am concerned about the ramifications of impending change coming to our campus due to our political system. House Bill 1173, known as the riot bill, currently being discussed by the Colorado State Senate, has the possibility of causing a lot of changes to the way college students act in public in the state of Colorado, particularly students who take an active role in events that may turn into a riot.
Many opposed to this bill ask the question-“What is a riot?” The gathering of a large group of people who destroy surrounding property is how I would define it. I cite the actions of Colorado sports fans after the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. There have even been moments when students from this campus were arrested for rioting after the Rams won the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Are we drawing the line at sporting events? There are potential risks at non-sporting events, right?
The riot bill, if passed, would make it so college students would be punished if convicted of riot-like activity. Legislators want to keep these students from paying in-state tuition, but what is even scarier is a potential amendment that would remove those students from school for a year. While this is harsh, many may argue that it is time something is done.
If they are punishing those present at riots, why are they focusing so heavily on college students? Adults in the business world do not typically lose their jobs if they are arrested at a riot. And, if college students are going to be kicked out of school, why are high school students not included in this punishment?
Furthermore, student journalists could be harmed in the long run because of this bill. Many journalists go to the scene of a riot to report the event; what they do not expect is the potential risk of being arrested at the scene when police officers are doing what they can to end the riot. Photographers, journalists, passersby all must understand that riots will attract the police – who will, if necessary, make arrests to settle the group. However, because of the bill, students will have to further understand the risks of being near riots. No longer will it be a safety issue; it has now been escalated to a risk of whether or not they can afford school or miss a year because of this bill.
I am trying to call this campus to action. We, as students, need to do what we can to protect ourselves from being discriminated against by the political and judicial systems. We must recognize that, if this bill passes, convicted rioters will be treated differently on campus than those who have been convicted of other crimes. But we must also fight the fact that college students are being marginalized into a category – this bill will make it okay to punish only college students where it hurts them the most: their pocketbooks and their freedom to go to school.
Melissa Pester is a freshman majoring in technical journalism. She covers state issues for the Collegian.