J. Marcus Williams, a freshman from Clinton, was sitting outside his Morgan State University dormitory in September when four people, including two Morgan students, pulled up in a black truck, got out, and proceeded to pummel him, according to a police report.
The fight landed the freshman in the hospital with a broken jaw.
It was a violent incident, but not an isolated one, according to campus crime statistics released last week by the U.S. Department of Education.
With 6,500 students, the school experiences a high number of assaults for a campus its size, compared with other Baltimore area colleges and universities, the data show. A study of the campus police log suggests that most of the past year's fights involve Morgan students, not campus outsiders.
At the same time, the Northeast Baltimore school has been criticized for its overall crime reporting methods. A national advocacy group, Security on Campus, filed a complaint against Morgan last week with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging the school is violating campus safety rules.
"They've got some problems there, and we're going to ask the Department of Education to go over them," said Howard K. Clery III, the group's director.
According to the national statistics, Morgan State reported 111 aggravated assaults on campus from 1998 to 2000, exceeding the totals at other area schools.
University spokesman Clinton R. Coleman said that the figures are inflated because the Morgan police department mistakenly included simple assaults in its tally. Most colleges count only aggravated assaults.
More serious assaults
But even the tally of more serious assaults stands out. Of 31 assaults reported this year, there were six attacks where victims had to be transported to area hospitals, and a seventh occasion when a student was found lying unconscious on campus after a fight, but refused medical treatment.
By contrast, Coppin State College, which is half Morgan's size but in a higher-crime area, reported three aggravated assaults between 1998 and 2000.
Towson University, with nearly triple Morgan's enrollment at about 17,000 students, had 17 aggravated assaults over that period; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which is about twice Morgan's size, had 13.
Coleman said the campus struggled in past years with tensions among "factions" split between students from Baltimore and those from outside the city. The new campus police chief, Leonard Hamm, has focused on breaking up these groups since his arrival this year, Coleman said.
"He's concerned enough to look into the causes of the assaults in the past in an effort to alleviate as much of that as possible," he said.
Mary Williams, Marcus Williams' mother, questions the school's commitment to reducing fighting. Although the officers responding to the fight were helpful, Williams said, Hamm and Morgan administrators have been less cooperative.
Williams, whose son is back on campus but considering a transfer, said she was not informed of the school disciplinary proceedings against the student who led the attack, as she said federal rules require.
Coleman said the school can't disclose the sanctions for confidentiality reasons. Two of the students involved are awaiting court hearings on assault charges.
In its complaint, Security on Campus charges Morgan State with seven violations of the federal campus crime law that requires schools to publicize thorough crime reports. The reporting failures may just be sloppiness, Clery said, but can come at a cost.
"You have to notify a campus of crime so it can take precautions. You've got to tell students what the rules are and back them up with a penalty," he said. "Otherwise, students know they can [fight] and not too much is going to happen."
Coleman said school officials would not respond to the complaint until they review it. But the university is working to improve its reporting of campus crime, he said.