CSU examines fan behavior following harassment incident

Richard and Julie McDonald went to the CSU vs. North Dakota football game excited to watch their daughter perform with the CSU marching band.

But by the end of the game, they would question their daughter’s choice in schools.

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The couple’s daughter, Kaelin, had provided them with student tickets: her own and one from a friend. As the couple sat between rows of students, what should have been a proud moment became an ordeal.

Over the course of the game, the couple said, they were pushed out of their seats, kicked and insulted by the surrounding crowd.

Crowd members took Richard McDonald’s cane, which he uses for his arthritis, and pushed him out of his seat. The same group later kicked and bruised Julie McDonald’s foot, which was in a cast due to a broken ankle.

“We are shocked and disturbed by this behavior,” the couple wrote in a statement following the incident. “We left the game after the halftime show and do not feel comfortable coming back to another Rams game.”

The incident fits into a pattern of negative fan behavior which a newly-organized CSU task force is trying to curb.

“While generally our game-day crowds are well-behaved, we do sometimes get reports of fan behavior – by both students and non-students – that sometimes crosses the line,” CSU Spokesman Mike Hooker wrote in an email to the Collegian. “While this incident is concerning in and of itself, it also speaks to a larger concern about some fan behavior that isn’t what we, as Ram fans, are all about.”

The task force, called the Task Force for Fan Experience, is composed of 14 members including representatives from CSUPD, ASCSU, Student Affairs, Athletics and the CSU Health Network.

Tony Frank began considering creating a task force at the beginning of the fall semester, following reports of Rams fans chanting vulgar slogans at games. The incident at the NDSU game added to existing concerns and provided context for the kinds of issues the task force will address, according to Hooker.

Currently, the organizations responsible for security at football games are Landmark, a contracted event staff group, and student monitors with the ASCSU-sponsored group Positive Impact. Neither intervened during the North Dakota incident.

“During the game, no one reported anything about this particular behavior and our security staff didn’t witness it, so there was not an opportunity for them to intervene,” Hooker said.

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The couple said they didn’t call the police at the game because they didn’t feel the students needed to be arrested.

“A police record can be really damaging to somebody’s record and that’s not a decision I want to make,” Richard McDonald said.

Following the incident, the couple wrote an open letter to Colorado State University addressing their experience and met with Nik Olsen, the assistant director of Administrative Communications, on Sept. 10.

Their daughter also posted a note on the class of 2015 Facebook page asking students to be more respectful, which led to a personal apology from Dean of Students Jody Donovan. Kaelin McDonald said she hoped students would read her post.

“What I really want is for people to respect each other,” Kaelin McDonald said. “No matter what age. No matter where you sit, no matter how old you are, no matter how much you drink, just leave each other alone.”

Julie and Richard McDonald hope that their story will grow beyond what happened: they would like to see the atmosphere of football games change.

During the game, they noticed that in the stands around them students were passing around bottles of what “wasn’t water,” and chanting “F*** you” at the other team.

“It wasn’t just a few people; it was the whole section,” Richard McDonald said.

But in spite of their negative experience, the McDonalds didn’t think that what happened to them represented all of CSU or the Fort Collins community, which has generally welcomed them.

“We were disappointed at how we got treated, but I can see now that it wasn’t a reflection of the whole student body,” Richard McDonald said. “It was a reflection of a certain group of people who had too much room to party.”

News Editor Elisabeth Willner can be reached at news@collegian.com.