Why UConn Mac and Cheese Attack Isn’t Funny

Did you see the YouTube video titled “Drunk Kid Wants Mac and Cheese”? It went viral last Tuesday. It’s been watched all over the world. Did you laugh at the UConn student demanding his favorite jalapeno-flavored drunk food?

 
 

Did you think the belligerent, slurring and entitled kid was funny? If you did, let me tell you why you’re wrong.

 
 

The video stars an enraged underage student who was refused service by UConn’s student Union for allegedly carrying an open container of alcohol around the food court. In the nine-minute video, the 19-year-old white male calls the manager of the food court a string of expletives. He makes insulting attacks on the manager’s employment position. He makes other repeated personal insults. (Might I add, all while the manager exhibits incredible self-control, poise and professionalism).

 
 

Finally, the student escalates to multiple short spurts of physical violence until he is finally subdued by the manager and another employee and arrested.

 
 

Sure, the abstract idea of a public tantrum over macaroni and cheese is hilarious. Think of John Belushi in the Animal House food fight scene. And in all fairness, as a UConn graduate, I can attest to the fact that the mac and cheese is delicious.

 
 

But this video is terrifying, not amusing. The issues at play here are the ones that lead in every kind of wrong direction.

 
 

Let’s start with this: Dozens of people are standing around laughing while another human being is being verbally and physically assaulted. A room full of able-bodied young adults are audience members; none of them steps up to help. They’re elbowing each other, taking pictures and smirking. I’m sure the incident didn’t make that great of a Snapchat.

 
 

Second, a 19-year-old felt entitled to be venomous in public, simply because he was on a college campus. Even more disturbing is the fact that a young person felt entitled to be violent, simply because he didn’t get what he wanted. The student’s first argument to the manager is “Isn’t this America?” and he repeatedly offers to pay. Yes, this is America, where rich, educated, white men of any age can often get what they want, regardless of their behavior, if they have enough money.

 
 

If he was this upset about being refused macaroni because of this conduct, I can’t imagine how he will react when it costs him a job thanks to the Internet.

 
 

Finally, a young person felt superior to an authority figure, presumably because that authority figure works in food service. Rather than exhibiting University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst’s “civility,” students treat the staff who serve them, in sickness and sobriety, with astounding disrespect. The manager, who in the video makes every effort to not involve the police and to end the incident quietly, afforded the student much more leniency than would ever be found outside the shelter of Storrs. In return, he receives shoves to the stomach.

 
 

I must mention that I love my alma mater. UConn is a fabulous school that afforded me a world of opportunities. However, this type of belligerent entitlement is something I, and most (if not all) of my friends, dealt with regularly while being there.

 
 

Some people may think this is funny because it’s a drunk kid demanding snack food.

 
 

Imagine this outburst wasn’t just about mac and cheese.

 
 

Imagine all of the circumstances in this scenario, but instead, someone is demanding a phone number, sex or repeated non-consensual contact. (For the record, I experienced these demands during my time at UConn). Imagine an unrelenting, entitled and privileged perpetrator. Imagine if, even when if others are present, no one intervenes.

 
 

Sometimes, there is violence. Always, there are inactive bystanders.

 
 

Now imagine that people find this funny.

 
 

UConn isn’t the only university that needs work on making sure its students don’t behave this way. The need to act with civility applies to classrooms, sidewalks, and — yes — student unions. It applies to violence, sexual violence and the reciprocal respect shown among students, staff and faculty. It applies everywhere on every campus and it needs to be addressed.

 
 

This guy’s behavior is not hilarious. It’s horrifying.

 
 

This post originally appeared in The Hartford Courant.

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