Disciplinary Results Not to be Released

By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer

Georgetown University has completed its disciplinary inquiry into the events surrounding the death of junior David Shick, who died in February following a fight in the Lauinger Library parking lot. Citing university policy, which prohibits disclosure of the findings of such hearings, the university has declined to release both the names of those disciplined and whether any actions were taken against them. According to Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson, “only those who need to know will be told.”

Shick was punched, fell and hit his head on Feb. 18 following a fight between two groups of students, both of whom were returning from Champions, a bar on Wisconsin Avenue. Both parties were drinking prior to the fight. Four days later, Shick died at the Georgetown University Medical Center. The death was ruled a homicide by the district medical examiner.

According to a statement released by Daniel Wackerman, university spokesman, the board, which consisted of three students and two faculty members, acted “with great care and thoughtful deliberation.” Javier Betancourt, a member of the university’s communications department, said that “[the communications office]is not answering any questions,” regarding the Shick case.

Deborah Shick, David’s mother, said that she thought the board “did an excellent job,” after witnessing the testimony in the hearing. She did express some concern, however, at the university’s lack of disclosure.

“I think that keeping the hearing results secret isn’t necessarily good for the campus,” she said, adding that it could lead the university community to thinkthat there are “no ramifications” for those who are responsible for the death of her son. Mrs. Shick said that she would not disclose the names of those accused students who were present at the hearing, saying that the more important issue is public disclosure of the punishment, not the punished students’ names.

Johnson said that the university will only release the results of the hearing in its annual crime report which will be published in October 2001. Johnson said the report would not specifically link any punishments handed out to any specific incidences. She also said that disclosing the results of one hearing could “compromise the integrity of our process.”

Johnson said that the code clearly outlines what punishments students can expect for code violations and that releasing the results would not make the code more effective.

The university has refused to disclose the results of the hearing to Shick’s parents unless they sign a non-disclosure agreement that would prohibit them from telling anyone, even Shick’s siblings, of the results. Shick’s younger brother James is a member of the class of 2004 at Georgetown.

The agreement would also bar the Shicks from using any information disclosed by the university in any civil suits. Mrs. Shick said that her family has contacted a civil rights lawyer to investigate the legality of such an agreement.

The Shicks have also contacted Security On Campus, a victims advocacy organization, to persuade the university to disclose the results of the hearing. S. Daniel Carter, vice president of Security On Campus, said changes in federal laws have made it legal for colleges and universities to disclose certain aspects of a student’s personal file. One example of a now-permissible disclosure is releasing the disciplinary action taken by an institution but not the name of the student against whom the action was taken, Carter said.

The university’s student privacy policy, as described in the Student Code of Conduct, closely mirrors the 1976 Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Commonly known as the Buckley Amendment, the policy forbids the university from disclosing students’ grades to parents without student consent.

The code also extends the term “student” to mean all current and former students, so an expelled student would still be protected by the Buckley Amendment.

The potential results of a disciplinary hearing are dictated by the Student Code of Conduct, which details all of the university’s policies for students. According to the Student Code of Conduct, “simple assault” is a category B offense, which carries a possible punishment of disciplinary or housing probation or suspension. “Physical assault with bodily injury” is a category C offense, which can result in expulsion from the university. The Student Code states that alcoholic intoxication is an aggravating circumstance in disciplinary violations.

While pleased with the way the board handled the hearing, Mrs. Shick did express concern about the structure of the disciplinary hearing, saying that the victim had no voice in the matter. Mrs. Shick said the extenuating circumstances of the situation, in which David could not represent himself, called for an exception to the rules to allow his voice to be heard. Because of this, she said, David was accused of having a role in the fight which led to his death, but was not allowed to rebut the accusations, which Mrs. Shick says may have unfairly influenced the panel. She has called upon the university to change its protocol for disciplinary hearings to allow for such circumstances.

In June, U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis decided not to press charges against the accused students, saying that Justice Department policy dictates that indictments be pursued only when there is a strong likelihood of conviction. In June, Lewis hinted that Shick’s role in the fight may have precluded such a conviction.

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