Proposed bill to hand out harsher penalties to rioters

The bill would strip convicted students of their financial aid for one year and require them to pay higher tuition rates.

Stephanie Kudrle

Approximately one year after the events following the University’s men’s hockey team’s second national championship win, legislators are still working to make sure students face stricter penalties for participating in riots.

The University experienced riots after the men’s hockey team won NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003.

The House Higher Education Finance Committee passed a bill Monday that would penalize students at Minnesota institutions if they are convicted of violence or damage in connection with a riot.

The bill would strip convicted students of their financial aid for one year and require them to pay higher tuition rates during that time.

Some legislators said the bill would hold rioters accountable for their actions, but others said the bill is too vague and would place unnecessary sanctions on students.

Rep. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said the bill would add to the sanctions Minnesota institutions already have to punish rioters.

“I am in no way saying that institutions have done a poor job in punishing rioters,” she said. “This would be one more tool telling taxpayers we’re not using their money to fund rioters.”

Nelson said students have a responsibility to use taxpayers’ money to fund an education, not riotous behavior.

But Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said the policies state institutions currently have for riots are sufficient and adding another sanction might punish students twice for the same crime.

“It’s a constitutional question,” he said. “You can’t be tried for the same crime twice.”

Eric Dyer, president of the Minnesota Student Association, said the University already has a policy that expels students for riot participation.

He also said most of the University’s hockey rioters were not University students. Legislators should look at punishing the other people who cause damage, he said.

Dyer said he wondered why the bill was necessary.

“I don’t see what good it will do,” Dyer said. “The students in the riots were kicked out of school anyway.”

The University’s student conduct code states that students who incite or participate in a riot on campus, near campus or in connection with a University-sponsored event face expulsion.

Nelson said the bill would encourage institutions with weaker punishments than the University’s to enforce expulsion and suspension of rioters.

Many students convicted of rioting at Minnesota State University-Mankato in October are still attending that university, said Mike Lopez, associate vice chancellor for student affairs for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

The bill was referred to the Civil Law Committee for review. It will be voted on the House floor if it passes.