An Open Letter in Response to This Year’s Pumpkinfest Riots

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty of Keene State College; and to the Community of Keene,


The events of this past weekend have left the campus community–and the city of Keene–with many feelings: anger, fear, disappointment, embarrassment and sadness.  But there is also hope; there is always hope. 1 Corinthians 15.54-58 says:

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that has been written will come true, ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

This verse gives me hope because it reminds me that no matter the sinfulness that we find ourselves surrounded by, there will be a day when sin and death will be irrelevant in the world–and that on Easter morning, that process began when Jesus defeated both. It gives me hope because it reminds me that in the meantime, we are each called to “stand firm”, to be unmoved, to do the work of the Lord no matter what the world around us looks like, because it will never be in vain.

The riotous actions that some students and visitors to Keene participated in this past weekend are by no means indicative of the town or the general campus community.  You can see this in many ways: in the outrage expressed following, in the way that hundreds of Keene State students came out on Sunday morning to clean up the campus and town streets, in the words of the many students who said “This isn’t what Keene State is about” at the all-campus meeting last night. In this circumstance, at this time, these cleanups and meetings and talks are the work of the Lord and I pray that members of the campus community will continue to do that good work.

The Keene Police Department, college administration and others are doing much to bring riot perpetrators to justice and to care for the injured Keene State community. For our part, our student community here at the Newman Center gathered together in prayer on Sunday night for the injured, for the campus community, first responders, and the city of Keene. It was a time of great healing and peace. I invite you to please help us continue these prayers throughout the coming days and weeks as we all work together to move past these tragic events.

In the short time since Pumpkinfest, I have heard one question over and over: “What now?”  This is a simple question with an extremely complicated answer.  How does a community work through senseless tragedy? How do we work for restorative justice? How do we feel safe again? How do we come together while calling out those who did wrong? How do we rebuild a broken reputation, broken ideals–even a broken heart? Philosophers and psychologists have tried to answer these questions for centuries, but here are my ideas for this community today: we join together.  We stop ignoring each other–the good and the bad–and start connecting. We ask each other how we’re doing, honestly. We listen when someone else answers that question. We lovingly rebuke actions and words that do not represent what this college community stands for. We speak out on behalf of the silent majority who abhor the actions of the partying few. And we do it all with love and respect for one another.

Please be sure that my thoughts and prayers are with every member of the city of Keene and the Keene State community at this time, and that my door is always open for anyone who needs to talk–regardless of your faith tradition or lack thereof. There are many ways that we all need to process what happened this weekend, and there are many resources for that processing.  Here are a few:

  • To read KSC President Huot’s statement, click here.
  • If you know of any illegal activity or student activity that is against the college Code of Conduct, please do your part by reporting it here.  All reports made are completely anonymous.
  • If you want to seek help or counseling following these events, please contact either the Campus Minister at 603-357-1444 or the KSC Counseling Center at 603-358-2437.

Peace be with you in the coming days and weeks.



Pax Christi,


Cindy Cheshire

Director and Campus Minister

The Newman Center

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