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Colleges move with caution in Sox cases

A month after tens of thousands of rowdy revelers jammed the streets near Fenway Park as they celebrated the Red Sox pennant victory, colleges and universities have yet to discipline most of the roughly 21 students who were arrested in the early morning disturbances.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino sharply criticized the schools as dawdling as they consider the cases of students who were arrested after Red Sox wins and the celebratory parade. The mayor had urged schools the day after the pennant victory to immediately expel students caught setting fires or destroying property.

But officials at colleges said they are following their own disciplinary policies as they investigate, allowing accused students time to present their own defenses. Some said that their policies do not prevent them from disciplining students while an investigation is pending. Officials at all schools declined to discuss the details of the disciplinary actions, citing confidentiality rules.

By contrast, after the Super Bowl riots in February, Northeastern University sought help from the public to identify students seen overturning cars and committing other illegal acts. The college posted photos on the Internet, collected tips, and turned over the students' names to police.

"You've got to send a message to the community at large that this will not be tolerated by the university," Menino said in an interview. "They can't say to us, 'There's a process.' The process has lasted over a month now."

An Emerson College student, 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove, was killed last month when police fired pepper pellets as officers tried to control a raucous crowd, including some who were throwing bottles at the officers.

In possibly the most severe case of discipline, the two Boston College students arrested Oct. 21 in the celebration after the pennant win have been suspended pending the resolution of their criminal cases. Northeastern has finished disciplinary proceedings involving three of six students who were arrested, but officials said only that at least some of the students were punished and refused to elaborate.

At Boston University, disciplinary action is still pending against all of BU's arrested students. Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore would not say how many BU students face disciplinary action.

Menino also said colleges should work harder to identify students who acted illegally during the riots but were not arrested. Schools "should be proactive," Menino said. "They should be with the police going over the videos."

At Northeastern, school officials scanned videotapes of people in the raucous crowd of Red Sox fans, but did not recognize any of Northeastern's 14,000 students, said Fred McGrail, the school's director of communications. McGrail said that the school posted photos on its website last winter in an effort to identify students, because the Super Bowl rioters had gathered on the edge of the Northeastern campus. About 1,500 people flooded the streets near Northeastern after the Patriots' Super Bowl win.

A 21-year-old man, the brother of a Northeastern freshman, was killed, and a Northeastern student was injured when one reveler drove his SUV into the crowd. At least seven students were expelled; others faced lesser sanctions. In contrast, McGrail said: "Fenway was not a Northeastern issue or story. We've done everything we can reasonably do."

Officials at other schools said they would investigate if presented with evidence that a student had broken laws, but would not initiate efforts to identify such students.

Schools said they repeatedly warned students, before and during the critical Red Sox games that they would be disciplined if they violated the law. At Northeastern, school administrators, professors, student leaders, and student advisers spelled out school policy and urged students to avoid violence during the celebrations, McGrail said.

At Boston College, the two suspended students will face additional sanctions from the college if they are convicted, said university spokesman Jack Dunn. He declined to discuss other specifics of those two cases and said the college did not expect to investigate other students.

Menino praised the school's decision to suspend arrested students until their criminal cases are resolved.

"That's what we're looking for," he said. "Suspend them pending the conclusion of their criminal cases. Send a message. They're not sending a message by saying we're going to wait for the courts to make a decision."

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley has announced that he will notify schools as students' criminal cases are resolved. But this week, he urged colleges and universities to discipline students who broke the law.

Conley said that "the criminal-justice response can only take us so far."

"I challenge [colleges] to assure that students are held fully accountable for their actions, both on and off campus, and that they help us to send a powerful, deterrent message to others who might contemplate reckless behavior in the future," he said.

Answering a question about Menino's call for immediate action by the colleges, Conley said he did not think it was unreasonable for schools to wait until students' court cases are resolved before taking disciplinary action.

"It's up to them individually," Conley said. "I'm comfortable with them letting the court process reach its conclusion."

Tuesday the first criminal case against a rioting student was resolved when a Massachusetts College of Art senior was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service for running through traffic in his underwear. A college official said the student, 21-year-old Jonathan Chamberlain, will face a disciplinary hearing before administrators.

Students differed in assessing how their schools handled the riots. Mike Romano, a Northeastern junior and chairman of Boston Intercollegiate Government, said Northeastern set an example last year when officials posted photos of rioters on its website.

"Students implicated in riots in any form or in conduct that is not appropriate, either in the institution they attend or to the city at large, should be expelled," said Romano, former president of Northeastern's Student Government Association.

Jon Marker, BU student government president, said administrators have "handled it very well.

"The administration hasn't ballooned it into anything huge, and they haven't been asking students to rat each other out," he said.

Also this week, Emerson College's Student Government Association sent a letter to Menino, city councilors, and Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole, asking them to discontinue use of the pepper-pellet guns unless they can be proved safe.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at kburge@globe.com.

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