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Tim Skubick: How couch-burning and politics mix at MSU

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Somebody call Art Van. They need more couches in East Lansing. (No Italian leather, please. It doesn't burn well.)

The students at MSU celebrated their football team's brilliant win over Ohio State on Saturday night and, per usual, their behavior moved the football victory story to the inside front page, as the alleged "rioting" replaced it as the lead story on page one.

Seen this movie before?

Oh yeah.

Five times as a matter of fact as Cedar Village, an upscale student ghetto of apartment buildings, became ground zero for students burning stuff, shouting, and singing the fight song.

This sets off another debate: Where does celebration end and rioting begin?  Guess it depends on whether your sofa was torched.  The media immediately dubbed it a riot.  That sells more papers. Please note that 40,000 of the students did not participate.

While that debate rages on, you might ask what's this got to do with politics?

Michigan State University, with its close proximity to the state capitol, has always been a favorite target of conservative lawmakers.  During the height of the Vietnam war when they burned the ROTC building and 20,000 marched on the Capitol, a special committee was formed to probe the college unrest in East Lansing.

It was a nervous time for administrators who feared lawmakers would reduce state aid to the school to punish the demonstrators.

The threat still exists, but the school has tried to head lawmakers off at the pass by doing a little self-policing.  Kids convicted of disturbing the peace are booted out and banned from campus.

Enacted as a deterrent, it obviously has not worked.  Remember students are a spontaneous lot. When the clock ran out in Indianapolis, they ran out into the streets and no one advised them that the "celebration" they attended might get them booted out of school.

"We're MSU.  It's what we do," one joyous student acknowledged for the TV cameras.

That's why they are college students. No fear of tomorrow. Live and burn for today.

Hopefully the new load of couches won't be needed on January 1 after the Rose Bowl win or loss.

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