Providence president backs players' expulsion

Thursday, May 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Providence, R.I.-- The president of Providence College has upheld a disciplinary committee's decision to expel three basketball players accused of assaulting three students off-campus last month.

Donta Wade, 21, of Huntington, W.Va., a starter who scored 38 points against Notre Dame last season; and reserves Jamaal Camah, 23, of Lynn, Mass., and David Murray, 22, of the Bronx, N.Y., are barred from returning to PC for their senior year, their lawyers confirmed yesterday.

The college, which did not identify the players, said that in addition to the three dismissals, one student was exonerated after appealing to the vice president for student affairs, one will be on disciplinary probation for a year, and three others will be on personal probation for two years.

Disciplinary probation allows students to attend classes but not participate in extracurricular activities. Personal probation allows students to participate fully in college activities, but subjects them to immediate suspension if they violate the disciplinary code again.

Wade, Murray and Llewellyn Cole, 24, a fifth-year senior whose eligibility to play for the Friars has expired, are charged with two counts of felony assault and one felony count of conspiracy in connection with the April 10 incident. Camah is charged with simple assault.

Cole's lawyer, state Sen. John C. Revens Jr., said yesterday that his client had been placed on probation, though he wouldn't say which kind.

The sanctions are all final, as the students have exhausted their possibilities for appeal.

And although the criminal charges are still pending -- the felonies are before a grand jury, The Journal has learned, and Camah is scheduled for trial in District Court next Thursday -- there was some sense of closure at PC yesterday.

The Rev. Philip A. Smith, O.P., president of the college, said in an interview that this incident is "certainly the most difficult situation" that he has dealt with in his nearly six-year tenure.

The violence and intimidation of which the punished students were accused "goes to the heart of what Providence College stands for," Father Smith said.

The police and witnesses have said that on the night of April 10, a group of students, at least some of them basketball players, went to the home of senior Thomas Cook, at 47 Eaton St., to confront him about his refusal to allow one of them into a bar where he works as a bouncer.

Cook went out with some of his housemates, and a melee ensued. Cook, 22, suffered a broken nose and a fractured jaw and required surgery, the police have said.

Cook's housemate Mark Hogan, 22, suffered severe injuries to his cheekbone and eyesocket and also required surgery, the police have said. Another housemate, Ryan Kerwin, 22, said he was punched by Camah and fell to the ground.

Father Smith said the incident created a "climate of fear" on campus that goes against PC's values in a way that is "enormously more serious" than some students' posting of abortion-rights fliers on campus earlier this year.

"This is a very different thing," he said. "It's an inexcusable act of violence against other students."

The students who posted the abortion fliers were suspended, not dismissed. Father Smith said there have been about seven expulsions this year -- a particularly high number -- including the three students in the April 10 incident and others dismissed for selling drugs and making fake IDs.

The PC disciplinary process entails an initial investigation, a hearing behind closed doors, then the possibility of an appeal to the Rev. J. Stuart McPhail, O.P., vice president for student services. Expulsions are also reviewed by Father Smith.

Last month, a specially appointed six-member Committee on Discipline met for 22 hours to adjudicate eight students -- all basketball players -- who were charged with attacking Cook and his housemates.

The committee found all eight students guilty, some of more serious offenses than others, and imposed penalties that ranged from expulsion to suspension to exclusion from extracurricular activities.

The players all appealed, and after hearing more evidence, McPhail exonerated one of them. He was found not to have been involved at all, Father Smith said.

Revens said the penalty against Cole was "amended" on appeal, though he wouldn't explain how.

Father Smith said Father McPhail reviewed the three expulsions and upheld them, and two of the students met with the college president for one last appeal. The third student didn't come to see him, Father Smith said.

The chances for a reversal of fortune at that level were minimal, Father Smith said, because "I have rarely, rarely ever overturned the recommendations of the vice president for student services."

The lawyers for the three players said their clients were upset by the failed appeal but were looking to continue their studies -- and keep playing basketball -- somewhere else. They also expressed confidence that the outcome of the criminal charges will be different.

"I just hope that people don't presume from this finding that that's the end of this," said Margaret Lynch, who is representing Wade. "There's a lot more to come."

Patrick Lynch, her brother and Camah's lawyer, noted that the players had not been represented by lawyers at the college hearings and had not been able to confront the witnesses against them. Cook and Hogan didn't even testify, he said -- their written statements were just read into the record.

"I think the whole process has been devastating, including the coverage that the press has given this," Patrick Lynch said.

Friars coach Tim Welsh said he has been speaking with the players and preparing them for the future.

"I let them know that if, in fact, they had to leave, I would still be there for them and help them move on to the next step in life," Welsh said. "I want to let them know that 'Your life is not over.' It's over here, and that's a disappointment for all involved, but you have to move on."