Spoiler alert from a 1975 movie, but the shark in Jaws was killed at the end of the movie. Theoretically, that meant there would be no sequels. Yet, nonetheless, there was a Jaws 2, 3, 4 and 5. Although they killed one shark, it seemed that a shark was always waiting to seize an opportunity, such as an unsuspecting surfer.
Like the shark in Jaws, Shark Night was theoretically killed off, but it would be dangerous to think the threat is gone.
For those unfamiliar, Shark Night was the biggest party night of the year and also the most dangerous. Shark Night was once the first night when sorority members going through rush could talk to men. It was also the first Saturday before classes -- and the resulting homework, pressure and effort -- got underway. It had become a night where those from outside Pittsburg came and enjoyed the festivities.
Often, this became a night in which there was great danger, clogged roads with revelers and more arrests than expected.. The last Shark Night before changes were made ended with a stabbing.
But changes were made, and Shark Night withered and died thanks to a coordinated effort by local law enforcement, city officials and Pittsburg State officials. Sororities moved up the rush week so the first night of being able to talk to men wasn't on Shark Night. One of the stipulations was that the members of greek organizations would, in effect, get out of town for the day for team-building exercises, seminars and more. A heavier law enforcement presence was also part of the efforts. In general, Shark Night became a former event rather than a present event.
But some of those changes are being loosened this year. The greek students decided they would rather have the training and awareness sessions on campus. The day will be full of those sort of events, but the evening will have live music and entertainment. The evening events will be open to all students. Further, few call it Shark Night anymore.
David Adams, Pittsburg State assistant director of campus activities, correctly noted that it has been almost four years since the crackdown on Shark Night, so few in this "generation" of students will remember what it once was. He also said that Pittsburg State staff and law enforcement will be nearby to help prevent poor decision-making.
We're worried a bit by the decision to bring the greek students back to campus. It's not that they were to blame for what Shark Night became. And we certainly don't blame them for deciding that a two-hour drive each direction just to sit through a number of informational sessions was not a trip worth making.
But while many students don't remember what Shark Night was, that's not an excuse for officials or anyone else to forget what Shark Night was. Shark Night deserved to be killed off. The community has been safer and better without it.
We hope this year's opening weekend is as safe as the last few years have been. We have no reason to believe that loosening the restrictions will mean the return of the dangerous elements that were a part of Shark Night.
But then again, after the shark in Jaws was killed, the surfers had no reason to believe there was anything else in the water, yet at least four more sharks terrorized the beaches.
So what we're calling for is a refusal to return to what was. The students may not remember Shark Night, but the residents near the area do. We want to see that looser restrictions do not mean wilder behaviors. We want all involved, from students to law enforcement to nearby residents to be wary, be vigilant and be responsible.
Because the only thing worse than Shark Night would be a sequel.
For the Morning Sun