September
18th 2008
Miami students riot because university remains open during power outage. (No, seriously!)

Posted under: American history, students, wankers

UPDATED BELOW

As many as 3,000 Miami U. students staged a protest Monday night against holding classes on Tuesday because of the local power outages in the Cincinnati area (h/t Rate Your Students.)  According to this story, “Miami University’s public relations spokesperson Claire Wagner says these are off-campus students whose houses still do not have power [as of Monday night].  She says the university, including academic buildings and food courts on campus, is running on a backup generator right now.”  Nevertheless, as student A— K—– explained, “We are being forced to take quizzes, exams and attend classes which will affect our academic standing within the university. Our academic standing may in turn affect our careers and the rest of our lives.”

Yes, that’s right A—.  This will go down on your permanent record! And I’m sure you’ve never, ever skipped a class before, so the thought of missing a scheduled class makes you apoplectic!  How dare the university hold classes when it’s functionally capable of doing so!  Like, what if they hold classes this winter because they have snow plows for the campus streets and sidewalks, and they don’t come and plow out your driveway too?  “No power!  No classes!  No power!  No classes!,” they chanted on that historic night of September 15, 2008.  What was the Civil Rights movement thinking, when it identified access to education as a key to empowerment?  Why couldn’t I see it before?  The real power is in not going to school!  How dare the man take away your right to skip class without penalty?  Eh, what can you expect from a “government school,” anyway?

This beats the beer riots of 1998, when for two nights in a row, privileged Miami students swarmed the streets when the bars closed.  They chanted “Rodney King!  Rodney King!” when the local constabulary started taking kids into custody because of their loud, public, and aggressive drunkenness in celebration of completing their final exams.  In fact, it was the very week that Historiann bought her first house right there in Oxford, Ohio, well within shouting distance of all of those drunken freedom fighters!  Good times, good times.

UPDATED 9/19/08:  According to this report, by Tuesday morning–the day after the protest against classes–the University was back on the grid, as were most local banks, gas stations, and the supermarket in town.  Also, by Tuesday afternoon, only 35 percent of Oxford city and township residences were without power.  The power outage remained a problem as of Thursday afternoon for only 12,000 Butler County residences.

32 Comments »

32 Responses to “Miami students riot because university remains open during power outage. (No, seriously!)”

  1. Indyanna on 18 Sep 2008 at 5:03 pm #

    This kind of makes you wish you were in, say, Galveston, where they only got the brunt of the storm, rather than the full outwash. We got a little of that wind over here in Transaltoonia on Sunday night, but unfortunately not too much of trees toppling on houses or anything.

    Food courts open all night? Hot and crowded libraries? Overdrawn cell phones, winking out, one by one, from one end of the campus to the other? This is the kind of stuff you bond over, and almost wish you were at your 35th anniversary reunion already, so you can relive the adversity. They should do like they did back in my time, and let everybody take the whole semester Pass/Fail. That way it wouldn’t affect your whole life!

  2. ortho stice on 18 Sep 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    Back when I was an undergraduate in Cincinnati, my colleagues and I participated in demonstrations (called “riots” by the white-corporate media) after police officer Stephen Roach murdered Timothy Thomas (9 April 2001). Thomas was the fifteenth young, black male murdered in police custody since 1995.

    We demonstrated because we thought we could change the racist practices of the police. We demonstrated to show that the so-called law and order of the city was based upon the systematic perpetration of racist violence. Those were the days when we thought we could change the world. Now most of us have resigned from activism to become hypocrites who are revolutionary in speech and counter-revolutionary in action.

  3. Bing McGhandi on 18 Sep 2008 at 6:46 pm #

    I would just like to register my thunderstruckitude.

    I remember at Notre Dame back in the day (say, 1994-1998), we never had a day canceled for snow. It would, however, occasionally get so cold that it was too dangerous to walk to class.

    I think I’m applying to that school. Sweet.

    HJ

  4. Fratguy on 18 Sep 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    Now, how am supposed to NOT post on this one. My rioting days were long behind me at the time of the “days of rage” occured at Miami of Ohio. I had a fishing buddy who owned an upscale haberdashery on Oxford’s main street at the time of the uprising. When I asked how his business had weathered the protests his reply was a shrug, a grunt and the observation that “what kind of riot results in no broken windows ? I mean I’m grateful and all but these kids couldn’t riot their way out of a wet paper bag”. Guess that either explains or illustrates our nation’s current state of political neglect.

  5. Historiann on 18 Sep 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    ZOMG Fratguy–you lived in Oxford, too?

    Small world, I guess.

    Indyanna, you don’t think these kids are the worthy inheritors of the “sprit of ’68?” Say it isn’t so.

    Ortho–I remember the Timothy Thomas shooting. The shooter was a son of an Oxford police officer, so there was a lot of sympathy for the officer in our town (seriously misplaced sympathy, in my opinion.) A friend of mine worked for the Justice Department then and was a member of the team that came to Cincinnati to investigate. His comment about Cincinnati: “that is one seriously screwed-up town,” in terms of race and class.

    And Bing: you want to work at Miami, or relive your misspent youth there?

  6. nicolec on 18 Sep 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    Considering how much college costs, I’d be pissed at having to miss a class- if one figures out how much they are paying for each class period they may think differently (probably not, but sometimes if good ol’ intrinsic motivation isn’t there financial motivation is). If they were genuinely unable to get to class while being held accountable for the material being taught, I’d be upset too, but this is nuts.

  7. Erica on 18 Sep 2008 at 8:06 pm #

    *wow*… How will they sell this to their kids? When I was in school, I had to attend class even when the lights were on. Life isn’t always fair! Rather weak.

    If one’s academic standing is so shaky that missing one day ruins the GPA, I don’t think the power outage is the problem.

    My husband (a prof. at Univ. South Carolina) walked in as I was commenting and pointed out, “There’s not much you can do to teach when the power’s off.” So I read him the whole story. He then replied, “OH… Well, that’s just bullshit.”

  8. Rad Readr on 18 Sep 2008 at 8:20 pm #

    Oh yes, Universityland! The part of Disneyland that was built in Oxford, Oh. Managed, manicured and controlled so that even the riots are staged. Thanks to ortho for reminding us of the serious riots that broke out in 2001 in Cinci, as opposed to the Miami show — where the E ticket buys you an uprising experience without the violence and anarchy.

    As a side note, I point to the strange staging of a strike back in 2003. The janitors and cafeteria people walked out. Professors marched. “We shall overcome” in front of the President’s house. And the students (98 percent of them) sat back and watched and debated the merits of the strike in their classes — what is a living wage? The strike ended after a couple of weeks, if my memory serves me right. And months later, aT the end of the year, the administration gave the workers much of what the union demanded. I always suspected that the administration wanted the strike so that students could have a learning experience.

  9. Indyanna on 18 Sep 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    Fratguy, so you put a line in Four Mile Creek… behind the stadium there, where our hero Roethlisberger first learned to throw touchdowns? I bet Big Ben would have fought his way in to take (and pass) a Trig or a Calc quiz, no problem. That or not play on Saturday.

    I’m nominating “….even when the lights were on” for funniest line on the blog in at least several weeks!

  10. The_Myth on 18 Sep 2008 at 9:22 pm #

    As I have said elsewhere…

    What a waste of good rebellion.

  11. Susan on 18 Sep 2008 at 9:32 pm #

    It may be my feeble brain, but I don’t see the problem. If you don’t have power in your off campus apartment, wouldn’t you WANT to go where there is power?

    The mind boggles. You cancel class because I don’t have power? Mind you, my former employer’s headquarters in Cinci — not far from the site of the Timothy Thomas demonstrations — were closed Monday and Tuesday.

  12. Knitting Clio on 19 Sep 2008 at 5:40 am #

    I think this post is rather insensitive — students who don’t have power are at a disadvantage as they can’t run their lights and computers and hence can’t complete assignments. Give them a break, will you?

  13. Historiann on 19 Sep 2008 at 7:00 am #

    Presumably, instructors can exercise discretion as to tests and deadlines. I personally wouldn’t hold students to a paper deadline if power outages were a major issue in town. But the idea that no classes can happen unless everything is perfect in everyone’s apartment in Oxford, Ohio is completely daft.

  14. nicole on 19 Sep 2008 at 9:14 am #

    I could be mistaken but wouldn’t the university have computer labs and a library to study in? I can understand if a student has a desktop computer they can’t turn on to get to a paper they’ve been writing and thus asks for an extension however, I don’t think having no power at home means classes should be canceled.

  15. Historiann on 19 Sep 2008 at 9:26 am #

    Nicole–there are computer labs all over that campus! (Rad can correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s my understanding.)

  16. Knitting Clio on 19 Sep 2008 at 9:30 am #

    Yes, but if you read the story, it indicates that the facilities aren’t large enough the extra students who now need to use them instead of their home computers. I’m also really dismayed by the lack of empathy here — how would you have felt as an undergraduate if you suddenly had to find a place to eat/shower/do laundry/homework/etc. because you couldn’t do any of that at home? I lost power for nearly a week during an ice storm a few years ago. Fortunately I found a friend with a generator who let me and my husband stay with her, but it meant that my commuting time was doubled. Also, they couldn’t run the generator all the time and had to prioritize — i.e. heat and hot water before computers.

  17. Historiann on 19 Sep 2008 at 9:44 am #

    Sorry KC–I have empathy for people without power at home, but I’m entirely unsympathetic about the notion of cancelling classes because some students don’t have power. Presumably, students can skip those classes if they feel they’re too unwashed or too stressed out–they do it all of the time for no good reason anyway, right? It’s ridiculous to insist that the university halt all work because some students don’t have power in their off-campus dwellings. (This is the risk they took when moving out of the dorms, right? There are greater risks and greater responsibilities in a rental propery of one’s own than in living in the dorms.)

    What are these students going to do in the real world when their employers won’t cancel work if their home is snowed in, damaged by rain or hail, or doesn’t have power? Stuff happens–adjust and get on with it.

  18. Erica on 19 Sep 2008 at 10:21 am #

    A reasonable response to being unable to type a paper for your class is explaining the problem to the professor, and offer a compromise — turn it in late, or turn in a hand-written copy. But insisting you won’t be able to take a quiz or attend a class? Come on.

    My parents are among the still-powerless Butler county residents, yet my father managed to haul his butt to work every day. Cold showers and meals from cans aren’t luxurious, but you get by. Washing socks in the sink so you won’t reek is a pain, but it’s doable.

  19. Historiann on 19 Sep 2008 at 10:27 am #

    Erica–I’m sorry that your folks are still without power, and I hope it comes back soon to their house. I agree with you: tough it out for a few days, kids. It will be a great occasion for reminiscence at the 35th reunion, as Indyanna says.

  20. the good old days » Blog Archive » Little Abe Lincoln would probably laugh at this… on 19 Sep 2008 at 12:06 pm #

    [...] topic of civil disobedience was brought to mind again by Historiann, who described a recent protest at Miami University. For a bit of background, Miami University is in Oxford OH, a bit north of where I grew up in the [...]

  21. SchoolingYou on 19 Sep 2008 at 10:20 pm #

    Seriously? What a bunch of fogeyism. Obviously none of you remember what it was like to be in college. As a recent graduate of Miami, I do.

    First of all, professors – aside from their higher learning – are normal people. And normal people are sometimes jerks. Right off the bat I can think of at least five professors I had who who would have had no mercy towards students with no power (“5% off your grade for being late to my 8AM — even if you don’t have power for your alarm clock.”) and at least one who would have reveled in his heightened ability to make students cry (“No computer? Maybe you should drive to the nearest public library out of Oxford. What’s that you say? You don’t own a car? Welcome to the real world, sweetheart. Now them’s the breaks and I’ll be seeing you next semester.”)

    Second of all, the 18-22 demographic likes to have fun. Get over it. When you’re young, a day without electricity and classes is the perfect opportunity for an impromptu frisbee game or beer fight. These are the memories that they will eventually cling to when they’re pencil pushing at a 9-to-5, so let them live a little. And nicolec, I’m positive these memories will not be tainted by the $55 lost in tuition, no matter how much ramen they have to eat.

    Now I will readily admit that a good portion of Miami kids are pampered, drunken assholes who probably put more thought and energy into this “riot” than any of their marketing term papers. However, some of their moaning has merit. For instance, Indyanna, the food courts were not open all night – in fact, most of them had to close early due to generator failure. And the libraries were more than “hot and crowded”; Miami probably has computer facilities for about 1,000 of the 16,000 students, so I’m pretty sure it was closer to “hellish and dangerous.”

    And Historiann – they took a risk living off campus? Living off campus isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity. 16,000 kids + dorm capacity for 4,000 = ? Hey, I wasn’t a math major or anything, but I’d say it’s likely those number don’t add up.

  22. Historiann on 20 Sep 2008 at 7:18 am #

    SchoolingYou–thanks for stopping by to comment. I agree with you that Miami’s dorm space has not kept up with its enrollment increases over the past two decades. It’s a shame–but that’s what happens when universities want to expand on the cheap, without providing services and space for the students, and when the drinking laws and local realtors conspire to lure students into local rentals. But, still: if you’re renting an apartment, you’re living a more “adult” lifestyle than the dorm students, and so you have to face up to the realities that keeping your own domicile requires. If there is a fire or a flood at your house or apartment, should classes be cancelled at the university until your personal emergency is dealt with? What happens when the power goes out now that you’ve graduated? Do you think your employer will accept your excuse that you can’t possibly come to work until everything is perfect again back at home?

    Some profs are jerks, to be sure, but most are probably reasonable. We know that students like to have fun–we like to have fun too, believe it or not, but we also understand our responsibilities when classes are in session. No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head to go to Miami–I say that if going to class is an unreasonable burden for Miami students, they should just drop out! Drop out now! Go have all the fun you like–and come back to college when you’re ready to go to class.

    You’re entitled to have fun, but you’re not entitled to a degree without putting in the requisite work. I know you know this–you’ve made it through and are on the other side. Congratulations! I hope that Miami has served you well, and that you feel very well prepared to face the working world.

  23. nicolec on 20 Sep 2008 at 3:12 pm #

    SchoolingYou- A few thoughts- firstly, I’m in my twenties and just graduated- I remember well what it is like to be a student. I still wouldn’t have dreamed of telling a professor to “deal with” the fact that I’m young and want the opportunity to have an “impromptu frisbee game or beer fight” simply because the power is out at my house. I simply would have skipped class if I felt that upset/stressed/entitled and dealt with the consequences. Secondly- I didn’t say the students didn’t have a right to be annoyed or even upset- the situation sucks- that doesn’t merit canceling school for the entire university.

  24. Jeremy Young on 23 Sep 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    One morning during my senior year in college, I walked to the library and almost slipped several times on ice-covered metal plates that ran across the walkway. We’d been expecting the college to cancel classes because of the weather, and knowing one student in a wheelchair who might easily be injured if his chair slipped on the ice, I was a bit miffed. I happened to run into a residence hall coordinator on the way home, and he told me I should e-mail the Dean of Finance, who was in charge of these things, if I really wanted to complain.

    So I did. I sent him a very polite e-mail stating my opinion that the college should have delayed classes by two hours (standard practice if the paths were icy), and thanking him for having made good decisions on this issue in past.

    A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was the Dean of Finance, calling to thank me for being so polite in my e-mail! Apparently he’d gotten a lot of less-polite contacts from other students.

    I still don’t know what to make of this exchange, but I thought I’d share.

  25. Historiann on 24 Sep 2008 at 7:35 am #

    Jeremy–thanks for sharing. Sometimes courtesy stands out!

  26. Erica on 24 Sep 2008 at 6:04 pm #

    @SchoolingYou — I remember being a student just fine — and even as a fun-loving 18-22er, I understood there were consequences to deal with if I didn’t finish classwork or didn’t attend class or didn’t get a reasonable amount of sleep. There are many sensible ways to deal with power outages. Get a wake-up call from a friend or family member if your alarm clock is dead. Eat crackers if the food court is closed. Plan ahead so you’re not surprised when classes continue instead of letting you drink beer and play frisbee.

    College is an education in how the world works as much as it is an education in your chosen major. And in life after 18-22, you can’t just collapse in abject misery when you don’t have power. (Well, you can, but it’s unimpressive and counterproductive.)

  27. Miami Student on 02 Oct 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    I was there that night………I found it to be not only ridiculous but also a perpetuation of the already ugly stereotpye of Miami Students being superficial stuck up and spoiled……As someone who has actually protested for something positive it actually broke my heart to see all those students who will protest school and most likely not go out to the polls and vote…………..on the flipside….the people registering to vote took advantage of the large crowd.kudos for them!

  28. Historiann on 02 Oct 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Miami Student–thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes, kudos to those energetic voter registration people, who seem to be everywhere this year and are quick to seize an opportunity.

  29. Rioter98 on 03 Mar 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    I took a break from working today and for fun decided to Google “Oxford Ohio Riots 1998″ and was linked to this page. Funny how there are almost no news articles on the web about the riots of ‘98. I was at the riots uptown in ‘98 and your attempts to dismiss our actions those three nights as “Beer Riots” is a misnomer at best. Your framing of the night as a “Beer Riot” is more likely an attempt to dilute the real issues of those nights and the conditions which led up to the students actions.

    To set the record straight allow me to recap the events of the first night of riots. It was the end of spring semester when there were three nights of riots in down town Oxford. While the University tried to portray the riots as just a drunken frenzy they over look the root causes. So as you all know the bars all close uptown at 2:00. After closing many people were hanging out visiting with friends. The crowd grew and some people were standing over the curb in the street. The Oxford cops in their usual fashion started passing out J-walking tickets. Well someone pushed the cop, the cop pushed back. Well there were 300 students and maybe 5 cops. The cop was quickly over powered and fled. At this point the students supported by many locals took the street. The book buy back trailer was overturned and a few bottles were thrown. We had the street for about an hour while the cops brought in reinforcements. Sheriffs and other cops streamed into Oxford while the crowd chanted “fuck you pigs”. The cops came in their riot gear lined up and approached the crowd. There was some street fighting I personally disarmed a sheriff after he hit me repeatedly with his night stick. The cops (especially this one chick cop) were spraying mace into the crowd. There was some human tug of war as the police tried to pull people from the crowd. The cops did manage to disburse the crowd.

    The next day the police tried to have a show of force all day. Cops in riot gear walked about town admit jeers and rude comments by the students. That night when the bars closed the students took the street again. This time the police came on even stronger. Tear gas was shot and another street fight against the police ensued.

    The third night when the bars closed students took the street again. This time the cops did not come to fight. They set up a road block and diverted traffic. The students stood in the street and there was no violence. (Other than two dudes dressed as cops with toy batons who were hitting everyone).

    After the riots throughout that summer there was still a lot of tension in town. We would insult the police on the street and heckle when they were making arrests.

    The lesson here is that the students are the real power in town. Don’t forget that kids, if there are enough of you stand up to those cops.

    I’m now an attorney and the behavior of the Oxford police has forever tarnished my opinion of law enforcement. The OPD tried a zero tolerance policy and that was the root cause of the riots of ‘98. It is not that the students were “privileged” it is that the cops over reacted to petty offences and treated the student body as a natural resources to be exploited for financial gain.

  30. Miami Graduate on 08 May 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Okay, I know this post is very old, but I stumbled across it through Google somehow, and after reading all of the previous posts, I felt I had to contribute to the discussion.

    I graduate tomorrow from Miami, and I love this university and have greatly enjoyed my four years here. Unfortunately, when the new President was appointed to run our school, I and many of my friends noticed policies that were put in place that were uncommunicative and completely non-transparent. As a paying member of the student body, I feel that it is no more than I deserve to be kept abreast on the school’s spending, enrollment, and other policies.

    The week without power was a perfect example of how the administration has bungled being open and communicative with students. I lived off campus for two years, and I vividly remember those few powerless days with little fondness. Speaking from personal experience, it was extremely frustrating trying to get any information from the school about what was going on or what they were doing to try and help the students. Going on campus to try and get on a library computer- which were shut down at 8 PM and opened at 8-9 AM- was like fighting through a pack of rabid wolverines. Every outlet- and I am NOT EXAGGERATING- in the buildings with power was being utilized to charge cell phones/laptops. Many of the services that the University told news outlets were available WERE NOT actually open at the time of release- such as the rec showers and the dining halls.

    Why does this matter? Well, again, in my opinion, if the school had merely made the effort to set up stations off campus, or institute some way of communicating with off campus students, the ‘riots’ would never have happened. I had no cell phone, no email, and live alone- how exactly am I supposed to know what’s going on? The school lines were invariably busy, and the offices to try to talk to someone in person were either closed or jam-packed with people. The University relied on the text-messaging system when MOST students had no juice in their phones, and sent out email alerts when the Internet was down across town and MOST students couldn’t access a computer. I am emphasizing the ‘most’ because that’s thousands of students- not just one or two with a little petty problem.

    If the school had made a better effort to communicate with the students off campus, the administration would have had a feather in their cap and all the student body rooting for them. I think, all too often, that school administrations forget that they are responsible to one thing over all others: THEIR STUDENTS.

    I understand, Historiann, that when one moves off-campus and away from the security of the dorms, it would be ludicrous to assume that the school should cancel anything for your own personal issues. However, this was not an isolated incident: MANY thousands of students were out of power.

    I was not in attendance at the so-called riot- which, so far as I know, was a bunch of people sitting around in candlelight- because I think it was very silly and an act of frippery. But I hope I was able to convey at least a little bit of the consternation and frustration felt by the students off campus that week- especially for the first few days.

  31. Historiann on 08 May 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Dear Miami Graduate–congratulations on your graduation, and thanks for your comment. You’ve convinced me that students had a right to be put out–I especially appreciate your comments about the lack of communication you had from the administration, as well as your comments on the practical limits of communicating with people who don’t have access to computers, TV, radio, or phones.

    I still think it was acceptable to hold classes, although were I a faculty member, I would have accepted papers and other assignments late (after the power had returned.)

    Thanks again for your informative comment

  32. notebookask.ru on 28 Dec 2011 at 9:27 am #

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    [...]Miami students riot because university remains open during power outage. (No, seriously!) : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present[...]…

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