Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

November 28, 2012

How WVU’s couch-burning tradition spawned riots

(Continued)

The Morgantown Fire Department receives half of its budget from a fire service fee. All property owners in the city of Morgantown, including the university, pay this fee. The other half of the department’s budget is paid by the city.

“That fee goes to cover the cost of the fire department coming to your house or apartment for an emergency,” said Tenant. “The fee doesn’t include responding to couch fires or dumpster fires. No one is paying for that so it comes out of the city’s money.”

WVU is currently taking steps to strengthen its expulsion policies, says Becky Lofstead, Assistant Vice President of University Communications. University officials are reviewing the case of each student caught during the riots to determine whether he or she should be expelled, suspended or perform community service.

“The university is enacting a zero tolerance policy on students who cause vandalism or property damage, attack the first responders or drink underage,” Lofstead says.

Kelsey Pape’s rear bumper destroyed by a couch fire set by students after a football game. It cost more than $2,000 to repair.

Four WVU students were arrested and charged with malicious burning during the Oct. 6 riot, and 12 students are currently awaiting a hearing with the WVU Student Affairs Board to determine their punishment. Most of the names and charges have yet to be released.

Lofstead says that the university is also creating a stronger law-enforcement presence in  and around football games, and are even enlisting the help of volunteer students called “Student Cadets.” These students will help fight the fire-setting culture and provide a friendly face to law enforcement on behalf of other students. The cadets are students talking to other peers offering help before an incident happens.

Some students have taken it upon themselves to generate change on campus. WVU students Summer Ratcliff and Brady Tucker have started a campaign called “Protect Morgantown,” which encourages students and citizens to patrol areas where fires are often set and alert local law-enforcement. The Protect Morgantown Facebook page suggests that if students stand beside area dumpsters after a major win, they could prevent fires from happening.

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