College probing fight on campus

It began with racial slurs on trip to Baltimore club

Hate-crime investigation

2 hurt in brawl

police apply for arrest warrants

Westminster

November 19, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai and Hanah Cho | Athima Chansanchai and Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

A McDaniel College dean is promising that the school's judicial system will consider disciplinary action for a "disturbing incident" that began with racial slurs and ended with one student hospitalized.

Campus officials and Westminster police are investigating a fight that broke out at the Westminster school after a chartered bus trip to a Baltimore nightclub. Westminster police say they are investigating the matter as a hate crime.

"I don't think any student should be subjected to verbal abuse," Philip Sayre, the college's dean of student affairs, said yesterday.

Sayre said that perpetrators of the Nov. 6 brawl will answer to the school's Honor and Conduct Board, which he said was expected to hold a hearing next week. He said the board will review information being collected by the school's campus safety office and student affairs staff.

Sayre described the college's plans to respond to the incident in a Nov. 10 memo to the "McDaniel College community."

"This shocking incident will be handled in a fair and thorough manner by the College's judicial process, and the community will be informed of the outcome," he wrote.

Westminster police said they have applied for assault charges and are awaiting arrest warrants to be issued by the District Court.

Authorities said that a private bus carrying about 50 college students was returning to McDaniel from the Baja Beach Club nightclub in Baltimore when an argument broke out. Racial slurs were used, said Westminster police Capt. Randy Barnes.

McDaniel officials said the trip was not sponsored by the college.

"We don't approve of a commercial enterprise coming on campus to solicit students," Sayre said. "It appears they were trying to lure students in the middle of the week to go into town to probably engage in underage drinking."

Calls to the Baja Beach Club were not returned.

Barnes said the conflict escalated into a fight, in which fists and feet were used, about 2 a.m. near the Gill Center, the college's gymnasium.

Although campus safety officers arrived first on the scene, Barnes said Westminster police responded and found victim Stuart Johnson, 19. He was taken to Carroll Hospital Center, where he was treated for a head injury that required stitches, Barnes said.

Police found broken glass at the scene but were unable to determine whether it was used in the assault.

Johnson is recuperating at his home in Baltimore County, Barnes said. He added that another student suffered minor injuries. Both victims are African-American, he said.

Barnes would not release the names of the two suspects in the assault because the warrants had not been served. He said they are 22-year-old and 23-year-old male students at the college.

He added that the incident is being investigated as a hate crime because of the comments made on the bus.

"This is definitely an isolated incident," Barnes said. "I've never seen this type of incident, especially at the college."

On campus yesterday, several students said they had heard about the assault in passing or that they remembered receiving a memo on it. The campus newspaper, the Phoenix, briefly described the incident in the police blotter of its Nov. 12 issue.

Matt Johnson, 18, a first-year student, said he heard about the incident through the memo. "Usually, the campus is quiet," he said.

Sayre said that the college's judicial system will treat the incident as a serious offense.

In his memo he quotes the student handbook, which "states that a student found responsible for `physical abuse including but not limited to racially motivated conduct' faces a minimum sanction of suspension from the College for two semesters."

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