St. Louis Community College is dealing with the aftermath of a massive brawl -- filmed and spread online -- that not only disturbed those who saw it but led to an outpouring of racial comments on various websites.
The college expelled five students, three of whom have been arrested on assault charges. The college posted a statement on its website: "The safety and security of our college's students, faculty, staff and visitors are of our utmost concern. College police were on the scene almost immediately and the situation was handled in a professional and orderly manner, according to established college procedures. Two students sustained minor injuries. No one else was hurt."
Video of the incident -- which took place Monday, and spread across the Internet at the end of last week -- shows several groups of students fighting, with people who are apparently college officials eventually breaking up the fight. A woman is seen in the video putting down her child and then entering the area where the students are fighting. Other students are apparently watching (and filming with their mobile devices) and not attempting to intervene. Warning: The video below includes numerous profanities.
There are, of course, plenty of (worse) violent incidents in American society every day. Scenes of this level of violence, breaking out on a college campus, student on student, are less typical. But this is the second time this academic year that such student-on-student attacks have been filmed. In December, nine students were expelled from Dean College over an incident in which they attacked another student in broad daylight, apparently in a dispute over his sneakers.
The cause of the fight at St. Louis Community College is not clear from the video. DeLancey A. Smith, spokesman for the college, said that officials asked the five students who were expelled why the fighting started, and said that the answers were "very convoluted." He said that it appears to have been "a personal matter -- somebody slapped somebody. It was not precipitated by anything we know of."
Those involved in the fight appear to be black women, and much of the web commentary on various sites in St. Louis that posted the video has focused on race, with many racist comments (use of the n-word, among other terms) linking the behavior of those in the fight to black people generally -- and others responding that such logic is bigoted.
Comments on The Montage, the student newspaper at St. Louis Community College, included many remarks of shock, especially about the woman with a young child at the fight. Some of the comments -- such as where one student responded to another who questioned why people didn't intervene by asking if people would "jump into a pit of brawling gorillas?" -- prompted discussions of whether race was or was not an appropriate point of commentary (and whether, even if it was, the language was offensive). Other students responded that the issue was not one of race.
One student wrote: "I am a Black student that is slated to begin classes here this summer. I am now considering changing schools.... Is this common on campus? Also, what is being done to protect students from these altercations?"
St. Louis Community College serves about 30,000 students on four campuses. The fight took place on the Meramec campus, which has about 8,500 students. Smith said that a student forum is planned for this week to discuss the incident, and that police were investigating whether any new procedures were needed. But he added that five officers were on the scene "within a minute" of receiving a report about the fight. He said that the racial comments were "very disturbing."
Added Smith: "There has never been an event like this here."