University system tightens policy on student rioting

Regents' rule requires expulsion in most cases

July 11, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

BOWIE - Maryland college students who celebrate after big games by starting fires or battling police officers are more likely to find themselves facing expulsion when the pepper spray clears, under a measure approved yesterday.

In a unanimous vote, the state's Board of Regents passed a new policy requiring all schools in the University System of Maryland to expel any students convicted of rioting-related offenses - unless the schools can prove why expulsion isn't merited.

The measure was prompted by the recurrent rioting in recent years after basketball and football games around the University of Maryland, College Park campus.

During the spring, revelers mobbed the streets of College Park after the men's basketball team's two Final Four victories, starting fires, throwing bottles and breaking store windows. None of the 18 people arrested after the Terps' championship victory were students, but students were arrested during celebrations after football games earlier in the year and after a Final Four loss to Duke in March 2001.

The university's code of conduct already allows for the possible expulsion of students guilty of breaking the law, said President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr. The regents' policy clarifies the consequences for unruly revelers.

"This will have a sobering effect for students interested in that kind of activity," Mote said.

The new measure is more lenient than the original proposal by regent Lance W. Billingsley, which called for a mandatory expulsion of three years for any student convicted in a court or campus proceeding of starting illegal fires or injuring others in a riot. After discussions with campus officials, regents amended the proposal to make expulsion a "presumptive" punishment - that is, it must be applied unless university officials provide "written findings" explaining why it shouldn't be.

The approved policy broadens the expulsion-liable offenses to "rioting, assault, theft, vandalism, arson, or breach of the peace." But it lessens the duration of expulsion from three years to at least one year.

Linda Clement, UMCP's vice president of student affairs, said requiring students to wait three years before reapplying would "not be in their educational best interest."

Billingsley and regent James C. Rosapepe questioned the reduction in years but supported the final measure. "It strikes me that saying, `After you've been convicted of rioting, assault or arson, you can sit out a year and then come back,' sends a very mixed message," Rosapepe said.

In other business, the board as expected re-elected as its chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr., who plans to step down after the general election in November. It also re-elected as vice chairman Charles R. Larson, who was recently named the running mate of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and who did not attend the meeting.

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