It has been seven years since Keene State received international news cover for riots that broke out at the Pumpkin Festival and it is time that current and prospective students move on.
In 2014, the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival was disrupted by mobs of college students, rioting, tormenting police officers and flipping cars. This garnered attention from the L.A. Times, BBC News, The New York Times and MSNBC.
As a life-long Keene/ Swanzey resident, the presence of the college has always been something normal to me. Even as an elementary school child I knew it was there, but it had never bothered me. However, I still remember seeing videos of the streets of my hometown on national news stations, covered with SWAT teams and injured people.
When I first saw the news, my family and I were on a weekend vacation in Portsmouth, NH. As much as we love the Pumpkin Festival, I had been going since I was an infant so we skipped some years to avoid the busy traffic in town. I still remember sitting in the hotel room with the news on, watching this happen without realizing it was on the streets of my home. Once we realized, I was afraid to come home.
I was a very anxious child and many things frightened me from thunderstorms to unexpected horror movie trailers on TV, however, I had never felt the type of anxiety that made me afraid to go home. I didn’t want to see the police cars on the streets or the rioters getting arrested. However, as I have gotten older and I am now a student at the school, my perspective on the situation has changed.
It is time for students to stop allowing the reputation of a 2014 event to impact the environment we want to live in. Since this happened, Keene State has gotten the reputation of a wild party school when there is so much else we could be known for. I remember in orientation my first year someone asks our orientation leader if it is true that parties at Keene State are so wild that SWAT teams show up. This is one of many misconceptions about the situation that needs to be halted now or it will never be forgotten.
The event was horrible and the damage was done, however, as this was seven years ago, none of these students even attend Keene State anymore. They have moved on, many of them probably work in professional jobs now and it is just a story they can tell to their coworkers and friends. Additionally, Keene State should not take the fall completely for the destruction that was done. Many participants were from surrounding colleges and universities as well as from the city itself. The school, the administration and even the campus attitude cannot be blamed for this. In the years since 2014, we have seen the college make strides to ensure this does not happen again. Around Halloween and Pumpkin Festival, students are not allowed to have guests in the dorms or any overnight guests. This helps to keep the number of students in the Keene area contained, which seems to be an effective way to combat any possible chaos.
The school has done what it can at this point and it is now time for current students to change the way the college is viewed. We should be known for our high-achieving sports teams, our unique majors and courses and our successful student body. We can help the community, surrounding areas and the country see Keene State as the respectable institution it is by not asking about the Pumpkin Festival riots, not telling our friends and families outrageous stories and continuing to better the Keene community with our existence.
We have clubs and organizations that routinely do community cleanups and volunteer work. Next time a friend or a new student asks about partying or rioting at Keene State, direct the conversation toward all of the positive impacts students have on the community and how they serve the college instead because, ultimately, this is what is important.