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GUEST COMMENTARY: Students cut out of tailgating discussion

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | 10:37 a.m. CDT; updated 11:03 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Few issues really impact every student at MU. However, the home football game experience is probably one of those exceptions.

Not many events have caused an outcry from the student body on the same level as that which was experienced with the 2007 closing of “Frat Pit,” which used to be a student tailgating area near Providence Road. While campaigning, former Missouri Students Association President Jim Kelley promised to ask tough questions about how and why this area was closed.

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This line of advocacy led to the creation of the “Student Advisory Group.” It consisted of student leaders from MSA, Graduate Professional Council, Legion of Black Collegians, Residence Hall Association, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, Associated Students of the University of Missouri, Mizzou Spirit and others. These students worked directly with the MU Department of Athletics to address various problems throughout the course of last semester.

Based on discussions with this group, IFC President Danny Jonas and I actively engaged in a tailgating-centered discussion with Chancellor Brady Deaton and Vice Chancellor Cathy Scroggs earlier this summer. While a solution was not reached at that point in time, it was obvious that students not only recognized that we needed to address fan behavior, but also that we were willing to sit down for a rational discussion.

Yet on Aug. 20, I received notice from the Department of Athletics that Reactor Field would no longer be available for student access for home football games. Apparently this decision was made at a meeting of the chancellor’s staff about a week ago, when a variety of campus entities (including the Department of Athletics and MU Police Department) endorsed a plan sponsored by Administrative Services, which is led by Vice Chancellor Jacquelyn Jones.

While I appreciate the fact that Vice Chancellor Scroggs voiced what is, in my estimation, the opinion of most students – that students would be upset by this decision and that this decision did not actually address problems associated with fan behavior – I am disappointed that the chancellor did not, at least temporarily, veto this decision so that students could be involved in the decision-making process. Instead, they allowed Administrative Services to make a monumental change that will have ramifications for thousands of individuals who attend home football games.

The administration attempted this approach when they closed “Frat Pit.” It didn’t work. Instead of creating a designated student space, which was the functional reality of Reactor Field, they merely displaced those who used to spend game day at Reactor. These individuals will now crowd areas that are already occupied. While the situation at Reactor was far from ideal, at least we had a degree of segregation between those who wanted a “family-friendly environment” and those seeking “the college experience.”

I find it encouraging that the Department of Athletics is willing to create more public space in Lot X, but as of today, the number of spots (250) is insufficient in comparison to Reactor (800), and the alternative (the 2000 spots in the new parking garage) is markedly less attractive. Moreover, it is infuriating that the administration would make a decision of this magnitude without consulting students, especially when a devoted and productive body already exists for this purpose.

Unless the administration wants to repeat history and have the same issues they were attempting to fix appear somewhere else this fall, they need to adjust their position, and, whether this is returning Reactor Field to a general area or expanding public access to a promising new area such as Lot X, designate an area where students can have their own space.  

Jordan Paul is the MU student body president.


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