Keene State College will reimburse the city of Keene for police over-time incurred during last fall’s Pumpkin Fest riots.
The bill for the police response to rioters during the Pumpkin fest was $90,000 dollars. The festival’s organizers, Let It Shine Inc, has already paid $59,000, but said that it should not be responsible for the whole bill. Keene State announced Let It Shine will make another payment and then the college will cover whatever remains.
In an open letter, the college’s president Anne Huot wrote while “there are many opinions about who should pay and why. The focus on this question is, in part, keeping us from moving our community forward, healing the hurt, and working together to address broader issues of common concern.”
Huot notes that during the riots the College spent $5,000 dollars on security and suffered $70,000 dollars worth of property damages, which she says “was not caused by Keene state students.”
Huot also says this payment to the city should not be seen as setting a precedent.
Full Text of President Huot's Letter:
"To the Campus Community:
There has been much conversation and debate on campus and throughout the community about the riots that took place during the Keene Pumpkin Festival in 2014. Much of that debate has focused on holding individuals accountable. Our students who were identified have been held accountable and those found responsible for the most egregious actions were given serious sanctions (suspension or expulsion) which carry with them significant financial consequences. The College also suffered property damage in excess of $70,000 and, as far as we can tell, most of that damage was not caused by Keene State students. Our own additional security expenses were more than $5,000. To mitigate the impact on our community, our students cleaned up the neighborhoods following the riots, held an appreciation dinner for emergency responders and have continued to work toward rebuilding and repairing relationships.
In my letter that was published in the Keene Sentinel on February 6, I indicated that resources at Keene State College should always first and foremost be used in ways that benefit our students, and faculty and staff. I am fully committed to ensuring that our students receive the education they expect and deserve. Yet, the passionate debate and concern over the unpaid portion of the bill from the Keene Pumpkin Festival has become a divisive lightning rod in our community. There are many opinions about who should pay and why. The focus on this question is, in part, keeping us from moving our community forward, healing the hurt, and working together to address broader issues of common concern. I fear that if this question isn’t resolved, we will remain mired in a controversy that does not serve any of us well. As a leader in our community and with this in mind, I have decided that we will provide the necessary funds to cover the balance of the bill. It’s my understanding that Let It Shine is in the process of making an additional payment, we will cover the remainder. Reserve funds from student fees will be used. The reserve fund will be repaid by fines collected through our conduct system thus reinforcing the Student Code of Conduct and avoiding penalizing the majority of students. The money will be delivered to the City of Keene, for their disbursement. However, the decision to contribute to the expenses associated with the Keene Pumpkin Festival should not be viewed as establishing a precedent.
We are all one community – the future of the College is intertwined with the future of the city and its residents. My commitment to our shared future is the very reason that Mayor Lane and I initiated the College-City Commission - to develop a lasting framework that will allow us to work together continually rather than episodically. The work of the Commission is taking shape and more detail on that will be forthcoming. I continue to share my aspirations for Keene State, particularly around the topic of student citizenship, and to engage with city leaders, partners, and neighbors, to achieve the cultural changes that will contribute to our shared success.
I appreciate that some will applaud this decision and others will criticize it. As a deeply committed citizen of Keene, I see no advantage to letting the matter create dissent any longer. I am hopeful that the potential good that may come from this will move the community forward.
My thanks to all of you for your thoughtful input and genuine concern for our students, our college, and our city."