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Dave DeLand’s article about the 1988 Homecoming weekend at St. Cloud State is worthwhile reading because it exposes the warped thinking of SCSU’s top administrators.

First, here’s a little information about the 1988 Homecoming weekend:

The scenario subsequently got out of hand. An estimated 1,500 people — some of them St. Cloud State students, some not — were involved in a situation that included tear gas, flying bottles, burning furniture and minor injuries.

The following night, 150 police and State Patrol officers — some in full riot gear — turned out to break up another sofa-burning crowd.

A few observations on all this:

No. 1, the sofas in most college houses probably should be set on fire.

No. 2, it was never really a “riot,” even though some of the trappings were there. That word remains a sore subject at St. Cloud State.

No. 3, SCSU has subsequently been sensitive about changing its perceived “party school” culture, and that sensitivity is often perceived as a lockdown mentality.

There’s no question that things got badly out of hand that weekend. That weekend, St. Cloud State made the national news shows and not in a positive light. After that, St. Cloud’s City Council instituted some ordinances aimed at restraining off-campus wild all-night parties.

The new ordinances worked.

That wasn’t good enough for President Potter, though:

“We’re going for something different than homecoming,” Potter said. “People would come back to St. Cloud to drink. They wouldn’t even set foot on campus. Homecoming, frankly, had become a perversion of what it should be. I would not go back to homecoming to go back to that.”

That change happened in 2011, 23 years after the 1988 Homecoming disaster. Instead of Homecoming weekends, when the city’s ‘population’ doubled (at least) and the bars did a booming business, SCSU now has 4 weekends called Celebrate!

“What we’re trying to do with the fall Celebrate! is that the alumni office takes the lead trying to encourage as many alumni as possible to come back to campus,” said John Brown, SCSU’s associate director of alumni and constituent engagement.

President Potter’s decision to shut down Homecoming weekend happened 23 years after the event that gave Homecoming a bad reputation. Had the SCSU president announced in November, 1998, that Homecoming had to stop, people probably would’ve given that president the benefit of the doubt.

Stopping it 23 years after the fact makes no sense whatsoever. President Potter isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt:

Whatever it’s called, though, Celebrate! doesn’t resonate downtown to nearly the extent of homecoming.

“Then they whine, ‘How do we get students to attend games?’ or ‘How do we get alumni to come back?'” Burns said. “It just really seems like some of the decisions are sort of a knee-jerk reaction,” Barth said, “just trying to penalize some of the downtown bars.”

Here’s President Potter’s lame explanation:

Potter said the switch from homecoming to Celebrate! was needed to help change a campus culture of binge drinking.

“We’re not talking about prettying up our reputation,” he said. “We’re talking about substantive change in the climate of the university. St. Cloud is not the party school it was. It’s not the place you go to when you can’t get in anywhere else. That’s worth celebrating. That should be the focus.”

What’s happened is that SCSU alumni got utterly disinterested in SCSU. Further, St. Cloud State went from being a party school to a school that’s ignored. President Potter’s decision didn’t cause SCSU’s enrollment declines. Still, it’s foolish to tihnk that President Potter’s decision didn’t sour relations with the University’s alumni.

It’s difficult to regain the alumni’s trust once you’ve alienated them. It’s impossible to regain their trust if you think you’ve done the right thing.

When President Potter is just a bad memory, let’s hope the new president restarts Homecoming. That’d truly be a reason to Celebrate!

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