Full disclosure: I am a graduate of West Chester University.
Total honesty: I was disgusted when on Saturday I heard about the mini-riot on South Walnut Street. The mini-riot involved hundreds of college-age kids. I’m sure the majority were WCU students.
Total surprise: Just how powerful social media really, really is these days.
While I will save my disgust of the events on Saturday for later in this post, most of this post is really about Facebook and Twitter and just how powerful these two beasts of communication are to our society.
We have both a Daily Local Facebook page and a Twitter account. More than 9,400 people “Like” our Facebook page and we have nearly 4,000 followers on Twitter.
So this weekend – Saturday afternoon to be specific – there was to be a party in the 400 block of South Walnut Street. Apparently the police knew about it, the landlord of the property in question knew about it and the organizers of this soiree were warned NOT to have it.
I guess I will let you know the next time an 18-21-year-old actually pays attention to an adult – even if it IS the chief of police of the town and that person in law enforcement says “no” to a major springtime party.
To recap in brief, police said they responded to a disturbance at 411 S. Walnut St. to shut down the party at 12:42 p.m. There were about 500 people on Walnut Street at the time. Once the police broke up the party inside the residence, people moved to the front yard and into the street. As people were leaving the property, some people congregated in the street and a few stood on parked cars chanting, witnesses and police said.
Witnesses said a group leaving the party pushed a van on the street. Several people in a group then pushed an automobile on its side, damaging its passenger side, police said.
While this is all going on – naturally – someone had the brilliance to videotape it. And in further brilliance they sent it to me.
As a parent and proud WCU grad, I was disgusted. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. As a member of the media, I was doing a dance on the desk (obviously, not really dancing) because I knew this had some potential for readership. Let’s face it, even negative events like this are news and people want to watch the video, read the accounts and see the photos.
Boy did I underestimate that theory.
I placed one paragraph and the video on our Facebook page. Less than 10 minutes later there were nearly 700 people who had seen the posting. By evening on Saturday the number had grown to more than 90,000 and as of about 2:30 p.m. Monday – as I write this blog – the number has crossed the improbably number of 200,000. That means 200,000+ people have viewed this posting on Facebook.
To put it into perspective, that number approaches nearly half the population of our fair county. We picked up more than 300 people as new “Likes” to our Facebook page, more than 1,000 people shared the post and more than 300 posted comments of their own. To sum it up in the words of Frank Barone, my hero from the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond,” – holy crap!
Yes, those numbers are astronomical and it shows the power of social media which seems to be the way we all communicate these days. Yes there was the day of instant messaging (anyone remember that?) as well as cell phone CALLS. Now, we just text or Tweet to communicate and post on Facebook when we want to share something or just vent.
Back to Saturday.
Honestly if I was a resident of that area of South Walnut Street I’d be looking to move. I really don’t see much changing when it comes to these sorts of young folks and the endless parties. And it’s tough to blame the police, the landlords or even the university. What can be done when hundreds of young people flock into the streets or to a house? I’m not so sure the town is prepared for that scenario although one would like to think they are. If the police chief calls the kids thinking of hosting a giant party and tells them not to do it and then they do it anyway, what else can you expect?
I get it that West Chester is a college town but there are lot of college towns where the students realize they have some responsibility to not constantly act out and ruin it for the full-time residents. West Chester University students at times seem to forget that. Honestly, being featured on television, radio and in newspapers as rowdy, drunken fools isn’t the way to go.
I would invite any of the students there for the party to write to me and explain how their actions were justified or why it should be condoned. Here is my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. C’mon in and we will even videotape your side of the story.
I’m not sure anyone will as if it were me, I’d be staying as far away as possible from this mess.
— Andy Hachadorian