Students want to avoid university sanction
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A task force of University of Maryland students is calling on fellow students to take voluntary steps to curb rowdy fan behavior, an attempt to stave off university-imposed restrictions on how students can act at games.
The recommendations, released Wednesday by the 16-member task force, include exchanging profane T-shirts for ones with cleaner slogans, distributing a newspaper at games with suggested cheers and greater involvement from coaches.
The report comes after the university sought advice from the Maryland Attorney General on how it could clean up fan behavior at university games without running afoul of free speech. The state ruled it could create a "carefully drafted policy" on the issue.
But the student suggestions are meant to change fan practices without new rules.
"We are giving students one last chance to change their behavior," said David Krieger, a recently graduated senior who led the group. "If it doesn't clean up, something is going to be enacted."
Maryland has struggled with bad fan behavior for several years, including a recent basketball game against Duke where profane chants and obscenely worded T-shirts were broadcast nationally by ESPN cameras.
The 16-member task force, formed this spring, met 12 times over the past few months to draft the suggestions. Members had an open forum on the issue for students in May and met with coaches, including men's basketball coach Gary Williams. About 200 students were surveyed by the group.
What they found, according to the report, was that students had some concern about student behavior at games but were also somewhat resistant to a university-enforced policy to change their behavior.
Other voluntary measures include an open practice with Williams for fans before big games and forums with coaches for incoming freshmen to discuss appropriate behavior.
A "best sign" competition would encourage fans not to bring profane signs to games, Krieger said. The athletic department has already budgeted $15,000 for the T-shirt exchange, he said.
The athletic department still plans to form a standing committee this fall to draft policies that could be used if the voluntary measures don't have enough of an effect, said associate athletic director Michael Lipitz.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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