Wednesday, May 4, 2011

College students hold riots, jump in lakes in response to Bin Laden's death


As we’re all very well aware of by now, Osama Bin Laden was killed this past Sunday, May 1st. I was hanging out with my roommate when all of a sudden a surge of Facebook statuses about Bin Laden’s death flooded her news feed. It was ridiculous. The entire front page of her news feed was covered within minutes. After reading of the news via social media, my roommate and I proceeded to search the major news network websites to deny or confirm said news.

Every site that we looked at, The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, etc. were all very vague on the details of what happened. (Understandably so, as the news had just broken.) We then heard President Obama was to give a speech about what happened. While my roommate decided to wait it out so she could watch it live, I decided to get back my studies like the good little student I was supposed to be being. (I knew I could find it on YouTube the next day anyway.)

What happened next surprised me. I heard that thousands of students rushed to campus decked out in red white and blue apparel to jump in the campus lake as a celebration of Bin Laden’s death. It struck me as odd that such a large number of people would simultaneously come up with the same idea and then go through with it. Although jumping in the lake is a schoolwide tradition for other reasons, I thought it an interesting response (to say the least) to such a controversial death.

This article from Inside Higher Ed offers an explanation into the psychology behind the impromptu massive undertaking.  Suzanne Goodney Lea, a fellow with the Interactivity Foundation and a former professor at Trinity Washington University, explains that the news of Bin Laden’s death brought closure to the lives of college students, for whom 9/11 was a significant historical event that impacted their worldview.

Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, asserts a somewhat simpler explanation for the mass riots. “I think it’s more a matter of patriotism,” he said. "This has been a matter of frustration for the country, and now it is resolved.”

After the mass exclamations of elation over Bin Laden’s death on Facebook and Twitter, the minority of people who are less thrilled took to the social media platforms to voice their opinions. Some media outlets also took concurring opinions. No matter which side of the fence one stands on, it’s clear that Bin Laden’s death is one of the most significant historical events of our time and is worth examining in its own right.

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