Police break up WMC melee Two arrests made after 300 gather in college quad

'No big deal'

Authorities report bottles thrown, several fights

May 03, 1998|By Stephen Henderson and Mary Gail Hare | Stephen Henderson and Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Two Western Maryland College students were arrested last night when state and local police tried to disperse a crowd of 300 revelers -- many of whom police believe had been drinking -- who refused to leave the "quad" after an annual spring festival on the campus.

Lynda Oxley, 20, was charged with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after she allegedly kicked a police dog during the confrontation.

Shawn Healey, 21, was charged with failing to obey police orders. Both were awaiting bail hearings before a court commissioner at the Carroll County District Courthouse last night. Their addresses were not immediately available.

The disturbance contrasts with the college's quiet reputation. A private liberal arts college with 1,500 students, Western Maryland sits on a hill overlooking Westminster. The campus is known more for historic buildings that date from the 19th century than for rowdy student behavior.

"I can't remember when we have had a disturbance like this in recent times," said Joyce Muller, director of public information at the college. "Alcohol is a problem on all campuses, but I don't think we have a bigger problem than other campuses. I think the students' energy just spilled over today."

Some students seemed to agree that the incident was a minor one.

"This was no big deal," said Jeff Ciesla, a junior from New Jersey. "It's wrong to call it a riot. It's just a minor setback and we're going to party on."

Police were called early last night to the campus to help break up a gathering of 300 students who lingered on the quad between Albert Norman Ward and Daniel Maclea residence halls after Spring Fling, an annual festival of music and games designed to help students release energy before the last week of school and final exams.

"There were bottles being thrown, and there had already been several fights due to the number of intoxicated students out there," said Lt. Dean Brewer of the Westminster City police. "We asked the students to disperse. Some left, but most did not."

City police then called for reinforcements in riot gear and state police, Brewer said. But when rain began to fall, the remaining students dispersed. "Everything settled down pretty quickly," Brewer said.

Muller said school officials have taken steps in recent years to curb underage drinking. All freshmen this year attended 15 hours of anti-substance abuse seminars. The school has also boosted the number of nonalcoholic events it sponsors.

"But certainly there is a group of students on campus who will always abuse alcohol," Muller said. "And we have students who are old enough to drink legally. Still, I think we do more than other campuses our size to deal with this."

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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