A routine break-up of horseplay in Huden Dining Hall ended with a physical confrontation between a Castleton staff member and student, witnesses said.The incident took place at about 5 p.m. on Feb. 7. Freshman Doug Phillips and other students sitting in a group were accused of throwing butter packets across the dining hall.
When approached by Pete Merritt, food service director for the campus and manager for the dining hall, Phillips said he stressed that he wasn’t involved.
“I mean, one minute I’m sitting there, trying to enjoy a meal after a hard day, and kids were goofing off, and he singled me out,” Phillips said.
According to students seated with Phillips during the incident, Merritt eventually asked for Phillips’ school ID.
Here’s where the story differs.
According to Phillips, he then reached for his ID from a coat pocket to give to Merritt.
Students seated with him, however, say he simply got up to leave – and that’s when things became physical they said.
“So then when I stood up, that’s when he grabbed me,” said Phillips.
Students who witnessed the altercation said that Merritt called for the staff to contact Public Safety while Phillips struggled with him. Phillips eventually made it to the exit, where he alleges Merritt “just pushed me up against the wall.
“I hit the fire alarm on my back,” he said.
Phillips said he wrestled himself from Merritt and moved outside to the courtyard facing Haskell and Adams halls, where the two parties, a group of on-lookers from the dining hall and Public Safety officers converged.
Merritt and Phillips were seen loudly exchanging words in the courtyard, where Phillips had become visibly angered, shouting and gesturing at Merritt.
Though witnesses said it seemed that physical hostilities might flare again when Phillips and Merritt were inches from each other’s faces, the situation diffused without violence as Phillips stalked off to Public Safety while Merritt and the witnessing students disbanded back to the dining hall.
Phillips, Merritt, and dining staff on duty that evening all gave reports to the Public Safety Department shortly after the incident, but to date there has been no disciplinary action taken.
“It’s an ongoing investigation, so I can’t give comment,” said Bob Godlewski, director of Public Safety.
Merritt also declined to comment about the matter when asked.
“I have been advised at this time [by my lawyer] not to comment on the incident,” he said.
Phillips, however, said he’s unlikely to pursue legal action. He, and the students who witnessed the event, say it was nothing more than a misunderstanding between he and Merritt that got a little out of control.
One student, who wished to remain nameless to avoid implication, said “I was sitting with that dude, and he didn’t throw anything.”
Associate Dean of Students Dennis Proulx, who is reviewing the situation on behalf of the administration, could not be reached for comment before this publication’s deadline.