Sunday, December 8, 2002

Ohio State may crack down on spectators at riots

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Ohio State University's board of trustees met for the first time since rioting broke out after the OSU-Michigan game and discussed ways to crack down on anyone involved in future riots - perhaps even those who are just watching.

After OSU beat Michigan 14-9 on Nov. 23 to clinch an undefeated season and the opportunity to play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, fans stormed the field, tore up chunks of turf and tried to tear down the goalposts at the south end of the stadium. Later, riots broke out in the housing areas just east of campus.

Now, the trustees said, they've had enough. The board drafted a resolution Friday stating the riots "tarnished" the Buckeyes' 13-0 season and that it supports OSU President Karen Holbrook "in dealing firmly with all identified perpetrators."

Currently, the Ohio State Student Code of Conduct says students causing trouble off-campus can be disciplined. But it does not have any provision for punishing spectators, which the school's Council on Student Affairs said should be changed. The group drafted a resolution to change the code last week.

"We feel like there's a subculture developing here that says this is OK," J. Briggs Cormier, president of the Council of Graduate Students, told the board.

Mr. Cormier said the code should be changed "so that the students who are passively involved would be subject to it."

OSU Undergraduate Student Government president Eddie Pauline agreed. He also said the university should try "to make sure the student body feels guilty about it."

Before the riots broke out, Ohio State took numerous steps to try to prevent them, including patrolling the neighborhood; talking to students; sending students e-mail, fliers and letters asking them to behave, and planning alternative activities on game day.

It didn't work. Fans flooded into streets surrounding campus, lighted more than 100 fires, torched nine cars, broke windows of homes and stores, and pelted firefighters with rocks and debris.

"Whatever events we offer, it seems like nothing can compare with the rush and excitement that these events offer," Mr. Pauline said.

Eight of 10 students suspended for their role will remain suspended. Two students arrested for underage drinking were allowed to return to class this week. Nine OSU alumni arrested have had their ticket-buying privileges revoked.

With the potential for a celebration to get out of hand should Ohio State win the national championship, the university is taking a hard line.

"Any student that hosts a party that gets out of control will be immediately suspended from the institution," Bill Hall, vice president for student affairs, told trustees.

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