Good ole’ Statesboro, Georgia. The land of cotton fields, wide open spaces, and an overwhelming population of more than 20,000 college students. The location of Statesboro is also known as being a “dry county” (where alcohol is not sold), but that doesn’t stop the thousands of college students at Georgia Southern University from indulging in a big night out. Georgia Southern is known for its party hard reputation, its high crime rates, and its leading numbers of STD’s. These are all things that outsiders say; GSU students know most of these things not to be true. However, at the very beginning of the 2014 school year, Georgia Southern definitely did not precede its reputation.
August 29, 2014 a fellow GSU Eagle, Michael Gatto, was pronounced dead by local news. Gatto was involved in a bar brawl with Grant Spencer, an off duty bouncer at the bar Rude Rudy’s. Both involved in the incident were under the drinking age. Gatto was airlifted to East Georgia Regional Medial Center in Savannah, Ga due to head injuries, where he later died. Grant Spencer was charged with felony murder and is looking at life in prison.
Although a very tragic event, Statesboro needed to focus on repairing its image. There are many steps the city of Statesboro has taken to alleviate its reputation, starting with the closing of Rude Rudy’s. The local bars were very lenient towards underage drinking, but that is no longer the case. Checking identification before entering a bar is taken very seriously. This was a smart move for Statesboro in terms of working through this crisis, but it has drastically affected the bar’s business. I am a student at Georgia Southern, so I know this first hand. It is safe to say that the bars resemble ghost towns more times than not during the weekends.
The school newspaper recently reported that GSU will be adopting the alcohol initiative from the University of Georgia in Athens. The initiative is to prevent underage drinking. The article can be found here.
These steps were necessary in order to show surrounding cities that this incident was being taken seriously. But many students chose to attend GSU because it is (was) a fun school. It will be interesting to see if the amount of admissions is affected in the future. Will Georgia Southern ever recover from this? I don’t know. The bar scene is dying out; and the bar scene is what made the school so attractive.