Editor's Note: The full text of the email referenced here is included following the editorial.
An email sent around 2 p.m. Thursday to residents of Adams Tower and Woodside and Gables Apartments warned students of "after game problems" that "may arise" following Sunday's Super Bowl. Fair enough. But then it went way too far.
After urging Gables, Woodsides and Adams Tower residents to stay at their respective residences during and following the game, the email read: "Students will not be permitted to gather downtown. There is going to be increased police presence at the complex and in town. By going downtown you face a serious risk of arrest and suspension from school."
While it is appropriate for administrators to let students know what kind of behavior is appropriate after a game like this (and we encourage them to do so, much like President Mark Huddleston's letter to the editor in this issue). But in his email sent to residents, Michael Saputo, the assistant director of housing, went about it the wrong way.
Saputo does not have the authority to prohibit students from going downtown. To imply that students that do so may be suspended goes way too far. Saputo seems to operate under the assumption that a downtown presence is the same thing as a riot. That's not true.
Legally, Saputo's decree infringes on students' right to assembly, guaranteed by the first amendment. Granted, students absolutely do not have the right to riot and destroy property (a situation that occurred in downtown Durham after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004). But while the police are free to up their presence in the downtown area, an attempt to imply a ban on students in groups downtown goes too far.
Here's what Saputo was likely trying to write: "Any gathering that escalates into a riot downtown will not be tolerated. There is going to be increased police presence at the complex and in town. Any students who participate in the destructive activities associated with riots faces risk of arrest, as well as disciplinary measures by the university."
We fear the backlash to Saputo's email will only encourage students to congregate even more, leading to a greater risk of a riot. We hope that festivities after the Super Bowl are done in a mature fashion and create little disturbance.
Full email text
Dear Resident of Babcock Hall,
I hope your semester is going well. With the New England Patriots competing in this year's Superbowl on Sunday, February 5th, I have been asked to get some information out to all of students.
I am asking your cooperation to make sure that no "after game" problems may arise in our housing residences. UNH has had a few times in our history where major student misbehavior followed sporting events such as the Super bowl and World Series. During these celebrations significant damage has occurred in and around the residence halls and the town.
UNH has since worked with the town to make it clear to students that such misbehavior will not be tolerated and anyone creating a disturbance will be arrested and/or suspended from UNH.
Staff will be working on Sunday night walking around the complexes and residences. . We will wait until after the game ends to do rounds and ensure that things are under control.
I am requesting that students at the Gables, Woodside, Babock and Adams Tower stay at their respective residences and away from the Main Street area. Students will not be permitted to gather downtown. There is going to be increased police presence at the complex and in town. By going downtown you face a serious risk of arrest and suspension from school.
I hope that you will choose to celebrate within your residence hall or apartment in a respectful and responsible way.
Enjoy yourselves, but not at the expense of your neighbors.
Thank you for your cooperation this weekend.
Assistant Director – Housing
10 Academic Way
Durham NH 03824