Colleges Cracking Down on Students' Rowdy Behavior Administrators Using Codes to Target Mischief

Article excerpt

ALICE IS dead.

The initiation rite for student "Knights of St. Patrick" at the University of Missouri at Rolla - consisting of a public dunking in a vat of goo and said to be named for a former Knight's former girlfriend - is canceled for next year's St. Pat's celebration and evermore.

The university decreed it. Unilaterally. Period. Non-negotiable. Wendell Ogrosky, UMR's vice chancellor for student affairs, said the campus is serving notice to students: "You cannot do things that are disruptive to the educational environment and are harmful to people." Across the country colleges and universities are putting out much the same message as they reassert control over student conduct. For years most took a hands-off approach, operating on the assumption that what students did on their own time on or off campus was nobody's business but the students' own. Students enjoyed the freedom to do pretty much what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it, while answering to no one in authority for their personal choices. That was the 1970s and 1980s. This is the 1990s. "The disciplinary environment on campuses has gotten a lot more serious and restrictive in the last five years," said Kevin Kruger, associate executive director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators in Washington. Long Lists Of Sins More than ever, colleges and universities are stressing their conduct codes, complete with long lists of sins that can land students in trouble. Schools in the bistate region typically outlaw cheating, plagiarism, sexual harassment, assault, disruptiveness, theft, property damage, hazing and illegal possession or use of alcohol, drugs and firearms. Codes also detail possible punishments - generally ranging from a simple warning to permanent dismissal from school - and spell out students' rights to hearings and appeals. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has been working its way through a series of disciplinary hearings lately, one for each of 40 students arrested the weekend before Halloween for their parts in a window-smashing, rock-throwing, fire-setting melee in town. City charges against the 40 - among hundreds of students and non-students who took part - included property damage, public possession of alcohol, mob action and resisting arrest. Because such infractions are violations of the university code as well, the university called all 40 students on the carpet - and sent letters to the parents of those under 21. By the latest count, of the 26 students whose cases have been heard, one withdrew from the university, four have been cleared of charges, one has been censured, 12 have been suspended and eight have been put on probation. Suspensions and probations have been for at least a year. Harvey Welch Jr., vice chancellor for student affairs, says the university is taking a new, tougher approach to troublesome students. "In the past, a lot of these students would not have been charged," he said. "We had the authority all along, but it had been our decision not to be involved." Parade Turned `Orgy' Halloween and SIUC have a long and troubled joint history. What started a simple city-sponsored Halloween parade in the mid-1970s degenerated into an orgy of vandalism and drunkenness as more - and more unruly - students crashed the event. UMR's St. …