Column: Why I feel weird almost-sympathy for mac 'n' cheese kid

In this screenshot, UConn student Luke Gatti is seen arguing with a Student Union manager after being denied service at the Union Street Market. (Screenshot/YouTube)

I’m not disputing the fact, Mac and Cheese Kid, 19, acted abhorrently this past Sunday. He absolutely did. During the entire documented confrontation, three bystanders unaffiliated with the Student Union authority figures he pointlessly rebelled against attempted to calm him down and walk him away, but he persisted anyway. For nine minutes, he had ample opportunity to swallow his pride and cease being an ostentatious jerk, and now his life will never be the same. 

Moreover, I can’t speak down to the blood alcohol content of his inebriation, but there are two possible conclusions I can arrive at based on the incident: either Mac and Cheese Kid was already predisposed to this behavior such that alcohol only minutely exaggerated his tendencies, or he has a grave problem with alcohol. 

In fact, this is not Mac and Cheese Kid’s first rodeo. Last year, he was arrested twice at his former school, UMass Amherst, for instances of alcohol-laden disorderly conduct, one of which involved calling a police officer a racial slur. He also assaulted an officer while in custody after one of those episodes. The UMass Amherst incidences both occurred in September of last year, indicating that he has had difficulty staying at two different universities for longer than about a month apiece. Considering he clearly did not learn his lesson throughout that period, it seems the ensuing viral video explosion may be the only impetus for him to do so. 

But is it the most appropriate one? Sure, he did have multiple chances to rectify his behavior, but my big problem with the viral campaign exposing Mac and Cheese Kid is this one shameful, embarrassing, pathetic instance is all he will ever likely be known for, effectively denying him the multifaceted essence of a human being capable of change. With the original video at nearly three million views worldwide and counting, the internet will scrutinize and vilify essentially a child who screwed up in a colossal, public fashion. I’m only referring to him as “Mac and Cheese Kid” and you obviously know who it is. He is now the subject of myriad think pieces such as this article. While he still has to go to court, an infamous viral video is, in a perverse way, its own jail sentence. 

Let’s look at the potential consequences for this kid. First, and most obviously, is expulsion, and it’s totally warranted; a couple counts of assault, and he was charged with illegal trespassing and disturbing the peace. UConn is not legally permitted to comment on disciplinary cases because of student privacy laws, but spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said, “any UConn student found to have violated the provisions of the Student Code may face penalties imposed by the Division of Student Affairs that range from probation to expulsion.”

With irrefutable evidence and a university increasingly wary of threats to its reputation, let’s be honest, he’s doomed.  Bearing in mind this is the second university he has “involuntarily departed,” the chances of him enrolling at another university with a discriminatory admissions process are very slim. 

This will inevitably bleed into vocational territory if, or when, he graduates from a collegiate institution. Employers will Google his name and be appalled by his past actions, despite any potential behavioral turnarounds that hopefully occur. There is a greater chance he will be rejected from workplaces and consigned to work menial jobs, by this token. I give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll attempt change because the obvious ramifications of the video will greatly compromise any social prospects, and he’ll have to continually prove he’s a decent person despite the viral 9-minute characterization of him. 

A viral video is a dangerous thing, especially if it casts a person in a negative light (albeit rightfully). It cements that person to the rest of the world as whatever they embody in that brief moment in time, and paints him or her as a caricature from thereafter. We sometimes forget amid our schadenfreude laughter, enticing D.P. Dough adaptations (the “Mac-Gatti” Zone) and Internet rage that bad people are human, and although they are in dire need of agents of change, how they act in a stupid video at one time should not be an indictment for the rest of their lives.


Stephen Friedland is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at stephen.friedland@uconn.edu.