NewsBriefs BUTTONS

CU Students Riot Over Underage Drinking Crackdown


May-June 1997

On May 2, about 1,500 people, mostly University of Colorado (CU) students, rioted in the University Hill section of Boulder following a year-long crackdown on underage drinking by local police (Elliot Zaret, "Students Riot On the Hill," Boulder Daily Camera, May 4, 1997, p. 1A).

Following the riot, CU's student government issued a statement criticizing the police for "mistreatment of the students." "In an attempt to curb underage drinking throughout the Boulder community, students have been treated as a nuisance rather than valued members of the community," said student executive Sally Hansen in a news release.

The riot began shortly after police arrived at a party where hundreds had gathered and built a bonfire in the street, a CU end-of-the-school-year tradition. During the five-hour standoff, rioters overturned dumpsters, set bonfires, and threw rocks, bricks and bottles at law enforcement officers. More than 100 officers, from Boulder and surrounding areas, were called in to quell the riot.

Police said it was the worst riot in the city in 25 years. The riot ended with 11 people arrested and dozens of student treated for minor injuries. Twelve officers were injured, two of them seriously, including on officer who was hit by a brick that smashed her riot helmet. More than 60 vehicles, including a dozen police cars, were damaged. Additional damage to city property and local businesses is estimated to be $350,000 to $500,000.

One proposal to cover the cost of the riot is that a onetime fee be assessed to CU students. A $14 to $20 per student fee would be assessed to cover the estimated costs of the riot. However, the CU student body and the Boulder Daily Camera rejected that idea, saying that it would point the blame at all students, many of whom did not participate in the riot, including incoming freshman. Jon Cooper, a student executive, said student leaders feel some responsibility for the rioting, and will initiate fund-raising efforts on behalf of businesses damaged during the riot (Carol Rowe, "Riot Costs Latest Point of Conflict," Boulder Daily Camera, May 8, 1997, p. 1A; Editorial, "Paying for the Riots," Boulder Daily Camera, May 9, 1997, p. 14A).

On May 6, CU fraternities voted overwhelmingly to adopt a mandatory ban of alcohol at in-house parties. First time violators will face a fine, and repeat offenders risk losing their charters. Sororities and fraternities will be allowed to have one in-house event with alcohol next fall and one next spring, with a total ban beginning in the fall of 1998. In 1995, the Greeks at CU set a nationwide precedent, voting for a voluntary ban on alcohol at fraternity parties. That ban helped CU win an $860,000 foundation grant for efforts to reduce binge drinking. However, fraternities backed away from that policy earlier this year, complaining that it was unenforceable. The party that prompted the May 2 riot was not affiliated with any Greek organization.