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No room at universities for student thugs



Published: Wed, May 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



In spring, a young man's fancy is supposed to lightly turn to thoughts of love -- or maybe baseball. But increasingly, near college campuses around the country and notably in Ohio, spring has become a time for young men's thoughts to turn heavily to violence and thuggery.

It's time for such students to be given their walking papers.

And it's time for their parents to be told why.

When 180 local police and state troopers are required to deal with drunken student partygoers celebrating the end of school by throwing bottles and rocks and setting fires in the streets, as was the case at Kent State University over the weekend, it's time to rewrite university policies so that the troublemakers cannot return to the campus.

A failing grade in "Violence 101" should mean an immediate one-way ticket home -- even if that means missing college graduation ceremonies. Unless the punishment is swift and sure, there will be no deterrent to those who would participate in the mayhem that has rocked Columbus, Dayton and Athens as well as Kent.

Epidemic violence: Somewhere along the line, some students were infected with the notion that celebration -- whether after a football game or final exams -- necessitated violent behavior. That contagion has spread among the susceptible, fueled by alcohol and mob fervor.

We're certainly not talking about juvenile high jinks here or fun-filled pranks. When hundreds are being arrested, when private property is being damaged or destroyed, when the lives of law enforcement officers and others is being endangered, high jinks turn into high crimes. In Ohio, aggravated riot is a felony.

We would suggest that colleges and universities that do not have a stringent alcohol-use policy institute one. That should be accompanied by a plan to diminish alcohol use by all students whether underage or not. Binge drinking is out of control on college campuses, and those who believe that what students do on their own time or in their own residences is beyond the purview of university and college administrators have their heads in the sand.

Fair warning: Further, students and parents should be advised in writing before school starts each year that participation in drunken brawls -- on or off campus -- will be grounds for dismissal. No one need confuse a student's participation in constitutionally protected political demonstrations with violence in the streets.

But the full responsibility for stemming the tide of violence cannot be borne by colleges and universities alone. In Columbus last weekend, 15 stores were cited by police for selling alcohol to underage drinkers. Communities must be vigilant in citing and prosecuting bars and stores that make it possible for those underage to obtain alcohol.




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