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Editorial: Students need to rethink Roebling block parties for the sake of Westwood’s future

By Editorial Board

Oct. 9, 2019 10:28 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 12 at 5:45 p.m.

They were there for a good time and not for a long time.

But the aftermath of the Roebling block party isn’t one we can conveniently blackout from our memory.

On Friday night, over 500 students attended the festivities hosted by a number of Roebling apartment residents. When emergency responders arrived to quell the unruly crowd, they fought fire with fire – literally. They encountered burning piles of broken furniture, while students danced and partied through the waves of police, unbothered by the chaos in the making.

[Related: Fire and block party on Roebling Avenue prompts firefighter, police responses]

Something about drunk college students and borderline arson seems like a recipe for disaster. And with a vandalized car and students recklessly leaping through the flames, it’s a miracle no one got hurt.

Except for the reputation and security of Westwood residents.

This wasn’t the first time the Roebling block party spiraled out of control – police showed up in riot gear in January. Yet it seems students were far from deterred, and only more eager to one-up the previous function each time.

This sets a dangerous precedent – and it’s only going to get worse, with escalations potentially causing actual injuries the next time around.

And these actions aren’t exactly winning over Westwood homeowners or councilmembers, who already feel as though college students are irresponsible and unfit to have a say in their own community.

We can’t have it all: Demanding clean streets and more student housing from city officials while simultaneously overturning an entire block in a matter of hours just won’t work. Wanting to build a better Westwood starts with respecting the people and the property already there.

The reality of Roebling spelled out destruction of private and city property – with uninvolved residents cornered into their own homes. It meant students and sanitation workers had to deal with the aftermath of cleaning the streets, while others were left to deal only with the pounding in their heads.

Students need to realize that even fun has a limit, and it seems fair to say the line is crossed when students jump on top of cars, set mattresses ablaze and leave the neighborhood upturned the morning after.

As students and residents, we should be ensuring Westwood remains a safe, peaceful place to go home to at the end of a rough day. It’s not like we have anywhere else to go – so we may as well take the best care of this community as we can. And that starts with knowing how to de-escalate before it’s someone’s car, apartment or life at risk.

Let’s make it clear: There’s no magical solution to college students partying – and parties don’t deserve to be demonized. But when the lines between a party and an apocalyptic riot start to get blurred, it’s time students realize we’re pushing the limit too far.

After all, students might be getting lit, but we shouldn’t be lighting our communities on fire while we’re at it.

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