UNCP grad: Pepper-spray mistake should not go unpunished

My name is Gaven Mayo, UNCP class of 2013, and I attended the 2019 Homecoming events this past weekend. I was very involved as a student — Oak Hall RA, Voices of Serenity Gospel Choir, UNCP Chapter of NAACP, and former Homecoming King. Since graduating in 2013, I have been working on my graduate studies, working full time, and sometimes working a part-time job, so I had not attended a homecoming in quite a few years.

Fortunately, this year was different for me, and I was able to ensure my attendance for the festivities of my dear alma mater. I attended the step show, the tailgating for the football game, and the comedy show, and had an incredible time reconnecting with old friends and running into staff members who helped in my student and career development.

The incident which took place with the pepper spray was catastrophic and devastating. I was actually in the midst of the chaos when it occurred. At first, I did not know why people were running, but as soon as I took my next breath, I also began to choke and started running with the crowd. This incident is so upsetting, and I have heard so many mixed messages about why the officer decided to pepper spray an entire crowd of people. There were pregnant women and children in the crowd, and the EMS had to come and provide care for some people.

I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate career at UNCP, so much that I decided to pursue a career in higher education myself. I now work in Housing and Residence Life as a Student Affairs professional at a small private college. As a Student Affairs professional, I could not help but to worry about the number of students who were affected by this incident and what may be going through their minds. Safety and well-being should be a top priority of university officers, and I believe that the pepper spray was not the best way to handle whatever situation was attempted to be taken care of. This mistake should not go unpunished.

I hope I am able to attend Homecoming in 2020, but this year goes down in history as most memorable on so many accounts.

Gaven Mayo