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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Operation Student Shield misdirected

Published: January 14, 2005
Section: Opinions

The tragic and disheartening events following this falls improbable, seemingly impossible, Red Sox championship have left many in our community searching for an appropriate scapegoat. Some quickly blamed the bedlam, injuries, and unfortunate fatality on the anxious policemen in the street that night, while others turned to those who peddled alcohol to unruly fans late into the evening. The most rational amongst these pundits, though, turned their attention straight to those fans that poured into the street, pulled down lampposts, and set fires throughout the city.

A powerful few, however namely Boston Mayor Menino, City Councilor Ross, and Police Commissioner OToole have assigned much of the blame to a more specific and particularly vulnerable group of residents. They are the mostly unrepresented residents of Boston – the nearly 250,000 book touting, red cup drinking, non-Boston voting young men and women who are enrolled at colleges and universities throughout the city. And in reaction to the post-championship upheavals of late, state police and local police alike have launched a shock and awe campaign against the students of Beantown.

But Menino and OToole should be wary because they are walking a fine line and moving our city in the wrong direction with their newly inaugurated program Operation Student Shield. This disturbingly named plan sends a message of division to students, employs the wrong methods to keep our communities safe, and creates a painful double standard within our city limits. And while its purpose may be to lessen incidents of violence and vandalism in our city, the few details that have been publicly distributed to area students are truly disturbing.

Regardless of its intent, the program sends a clear message to the many students who reside in Boston you are public enemy number one and the cause of the problems our community now faces. Simply, local officials have singled out one segment of our large population to be handled in a distinctly separate manner differently than it does the tax paying, voting residents of the city. There are tangible examples of this shocking double standard courts are being asked to impose harsher punishments for students arrested of various misdemeanors. If Menino has his way, will college students receive stiffer penalties than their non-student neighbors convicted of the same offense? Will the Constitution still apply for Boston students?

There appear to be several other equally troubling elements to this new plan. One is the strategy of divide and conquer using student leaders as agents of peer pressure to control the behavior of their fellow students. Student representatives are elected to serve their peers, not impose the will of the city on them. Students should certainly be involved in keeping our communities and campuses safe, but not as agents of the police and their questionable policy.

Our elected student leaders here at Brandeis, in Boston, and in the other surrounding areas will soon be placed in a difficult position squarely between their constituents and a powerful group of local luminaries. When deciding how to respond to Operation Student Shield our leaders at Brandeis and their intercollegiate peers should be sure to remember their obligation. Tell Menino, OToole, and Ross that Boston has been and will always remain a city welcoming to young people. There can only be one standard when matters of law and order are at hand, and we wont stand for anything less.