Looking Back At 1998-1999

By Andy Amend And Clay Risen Hoya Staff Writers

The past year has seen a number of memorable and important campus events, from the murder late last summer of a graduate student at Georgetown to the retirement of longtime men’s basketball coach John Thompson to an 85-hour sit-in over issues of sweatshop labor.

As the end of the year approaches, it is worthwhile to survey some of these issues and their impact on the campus. Here are some of the most significant events to touch Georgetown this year and a look at what they have meant for the university.

John Thompson Leaves

It wasn’t so much the circumstances under which he resigned or the entourage that saw him do it that made Georgetown men’s basketball head coach John Thompson’s retirement on Jan. 8 an ironic affair. It was more the piercing combination of the two.

As he stepped to the podium and officially ended a 27-year, 596-win watch over what he transformed into one of the nation’s premiere programs, Thompson was flanked by the players that helped give him his notoriety and validated his mystique. Players like Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), Alonzo ourning (CAS ’92) and Dikembe Mutombo (CAS ’91) – all of whom made the Hoyas so dominant in the ’80s and early ’90s – were on hand to see their coach off.

So were this year’s Hoyas, the squad that at that time was 0-4 in the Big East and headed for the program’s first losing season since Thompson’s first year as coach in 1972-1973.

It was a convergence of past and present, of success and, well, retirement.

During his farewell speech in McDonough Arena, Thompson said he was stepping down “for personal reasons.” Indeed, his separation from his wife nearly two years ago probably still lingered in his mind. Thompson, though, also felt the winds of change would have eventually blown him out the door in a far more ignominious manner.

“Hoya Paranoia,” the mysterious shroud that developed around Thompson’s teams when they began to enjoy increased success, worked for a while. In fact, it worked for two decades. Thompson created his own Georgetown University, with its own standards and rules. As long as NCAA Tournament trips were second nature, everyone was happy. Athletic superiority brought the university acclaim that 10 “Georgetown Forever” campaigns could never match.

Defections and early departures – beginning with sophomore guard Allen Iverson’s leap to the NBA in 1996 – opened gaping wounds in the program, though, and soon the air of invincibility seemed stupid. The values of Thompson’s regime were predicated on winning. Once that stopped, it no longer seemed logical.

That’s why, when Thompson finally handed the reigns to longtime assistant Craig Esherick, it was doubly painful. Thompson was a proud man who did not hesitate to speak his mind or set the tone for his profession. Here, though, the glory of the past met the reality of the present. On Jan. 8, they added up to a Thompson-less future for Georgetown University.

Medical Center Woes

The Georgetown University Medical Center has been perhaps the most important – and least understood – issue on campus this year.

Administrative decisions have alienated faculty, sparking a suit against the school, while the university has entered exclusive negotiations with MedStar Health, an outside health care management company, which will likely take over the clinical operations of the hospital. In addition, the budgetary constraints leading to the university’s controversial decision not to renew the contracts of four Campus Ministry employees stem in part from the situation at the Medical Center and its pending partnership with MedStar.

All these events are linked to a single cause: the Medical Center’s financial status. The Medical Center has not had an operating surplus since 1994, and in fiscalyear1997 and fiscalyear1998 it lost a total of nearly $120 million. Georgetown has attributed the red ink to rising costs and managed health care.

The university has responded with several initiatives, one of which was a new Medical Center compensation plan, announced in the fall of 1997. The plan, which faculty members were not given the choice to accept, partially tied their salaries to the amount of money they brought into the university through outside grants.

Eighteen faculty members filed a grievance with the University Grievance Code Committee in December1997, arguing the plan violated the principles of tenure. By linking salaries to fundraising and unilaterally renegotiating contracts, the grievants said the plan threatened tenure and represented an unfair disciplinary action.

The university maintained the plan did not violate the principles of tenure, saying the policy was not an automatic reduction in compensation, but a redefinition of the formula by which compensation is calibrated.

The university rescinded the policy in February, but its attitude toward tenure and its handling of the faculty grievance remained an issue for disturbed faculty, who by that time had brought suit against the school.

The suit against Georgetown University, filed Jan. 14, claimed the university had violated “the core principles of tenure” by instituting the compensation plan July 1. It also argued the university had failed to comply with the Grievance Code Committee’s decision against the policy.

Meanwhile, the university continued its efforts to shore up the financial losses at the Medical Center by entering into discussions, announced in February, to form a partnership with edStar Health, a Columbia, Md.-based health care management company.

While the university has remained optimistic about the impact of the prospective MedStar partnership on the university, the full effects of the new arrangement have yet to be seen. One indirect effect that has been announced – the contract terminations of four Campus Ministers, including the university’s only two full-time Protestant chaplains – has not been welcomed by many in the university community.

The Medical Center donates $28 million annually in grants to approximately 15 university-wide administrative departments, such as Financial Affairs, Human Resources, Facilities anagement, Campus Ministries and Legal Affairs. According to an article in Monday’s edition of Blue and Gray, the Medical Center would contribute significantly less to these departments under an operating partnership because the partner would provide its administrative services.

As a result, University Senior Vice President Jack DeGioia has asked these university-wide offices to trim their budgets by a total of $11 million for next year while looking to increase revenue by a total of $3 million.

Other ramifications of the situation of the edical Center remain to be seen.

GSC Sit-In

The Georgetown Solidarity Committee has become one of the most influential groups on campus since its founding only a year ago. Mobilizing a level of student activism rare at Georgetown, the committee put the school on the forefront of a nation-wide student fight to end sweatshop labor in the production of hats, sweatshirts and other collegiate apparel. Their efforts, highlighted by an 85-hour February sit-in in the office of University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., resulted in the creation of a new university panel to oversee the licensing of the Georgetown logo, giving students a voice in important policy decisions.

The solidarity committee has maintained that two things are necessary for the curbing of sweatshop labor – guaranteeing workers a “living wage” that meets their basic needs and the full, public disclosure of factory locations to facilitate independent monitoring.

At the end of November, the Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Company, which licenses the logos of Georgetown and approximately 170 other schools to clothing makers such as Nike and Champion, released a code of conduct for apparel makers.

Drafted by a task force representing 14 CLC schools, including Georgetown, the code banned several abusive practices but did not commit to a living wage or the disclosure of factory locations. Committee members urged the university to take a leadership role and reject the code.

“How Georgetown chooses to respond to this Code will be paramount,” Solidarity Committee President Ben Smith (MSB ’99) said as early as October, pointing to Georgetown’s national prominence and the fact that it distributes more college logo apparel internationally than any other school.

However, Dean of Students James A. Donahue, the university’s spokesman on licensing issues, announced in January that Georgetown would endorse the CLC code for one year. Solidarity committee members held a protest rally Jan. 29 and demanded a meeting with O’Donovan, who was out of town.

That same day, students at Duke began a sit-in in their chancellor’s office. More than a day later, an agreement resulted wherein Duke said it would endorse the CLC code but with strict conditions, including the disclosure of factory locations of Duke clothing makers.

When Donahue told Georgetown Solidarity Committee members the next week that he had no intentions of following Duke’s lead, they took matters into their own hands. Approximately 25 students led by the solidarity committee entered O’Donovan’s office just before noon on Friday, Feb. 5. By the time they left three and a half days later, they had gained both national attention and a concession from the university to seek full public disclosure of factory locations.

The agreement made Georgetown the third major university in the nation – Duke and the University of Wisconsin at Madison were the others – to seek disclosure. That number is now around a dozen.

The agreement Donahue and Senior Associate Dean of Students Penny Rue reached with students during the sit-in states that Georgetown will not renew the contracts of those manufacturers who fail to give the school a list of factory locations by next February.

The agreement also established a Licensing Implementation Committee consisting of four faculty, four students and three administrators who will oversee issues related to the production of Georgetown-licensed clothing.

In short, the solidarity committee can be credited for bringing a new social justice issue to prominence on Georgetown’s campus. In the process, they have impacted administrative decision-making in a way few could have imagined.

Core Curriculum Changes Proposed

In January, the Main Campus Academic Committee approved a plan to overhaul drastically the university’s core curriculum requirements. The plan, called the “Gateway Curriculum,” has since come under fire from some students, alumni and faculty who claim it is unbalanced and overly burdensome.

The plan, which would replace the current school-wide requirement of two English, two theology and two philosophy courses, requires students to take one course from each of six interdisciplinary categories during their first two years, as well as one course from each of two additional categories their senior year. The plan would also prohibit students to exempt themselves from core courses because of Advanced Placement credits.

By considering the Gateway Curriculum, Georgetown is following a national trend in general education reform. This year, both Duke and Rice Universities have considered moving to more multidisciplinary core requirements. The Duke plan, which called for a “modes of inquiry” approach to general education, passed with heavy support, while the Rice plan was defeated after being heavily criticized as too “postmodern.”

Much the same may occur at Georgetown, where a similar debate between conservative faculty and students and pro-reform faculty erupted over changes in the English department’s curriculum.

For now, though, opposition has focused mainly on practical concerns, with many expressing a fear that the plan would spread classes and teachers too thin. “There is a lot of fear that the proposal would leave classes without intellectual depth, although this is not something inherent in the plan,” said Academic Union Chair Rob Feigenson (COL ’00), who also sits on the CAC.

At a town hall meeting on March 23 held by the CAC, the plan was criticized as being too unwieldy for many students, particularly those who want to go abroad and those in the School of Foreign Service, which requires eight core courses of its own.

According to University Provost Dorothy Brown, the plan now must be approved by each of the different schools, the Board of Directors and O’Donovan. Feigenson added the plan is subject to change during the review process, and after another public meeting in May the MCAC will meet to consider possible changes to the plan.

If approved, the Gateway Curriculum will be tested in a pilot program as early as next year, with full implementation by the fall of 2001.

Canal Road Murder

Christine Mirzayan, a summer resident in Nevils, was found raped and murdered in the wooded area along Canal Road below Village A Aug. 2. The crime, which shocked the community and cast a dark pall over freshman orientation, has yet to produce any substantive leads, according to Director of Media Relations Dan Wackerman. The National Park Service owns the wooded area.

The Mirzayan murder was the first in Georgetown in several years and the first ever involving an active member of the university community. Mirzayan, 28, had been serving as a post-doctoral fellow with the National Resource Council.

According to friends, Mirzayan had attended a party for departing interns near 44th Street, N.W., the night before. When a group of her friends wanted to go dancing around 10 p.m., Mirzayan decided to walk home.

Police believe that Mirzayan walked down Foxhall Road to Canal Road, and then tried to take a shortcut through the woods toward Village A. Police suspect she may have been attacked by someone living in the woods, an area frequented by the homeless.

Mirzayan’s half-naked and badly beaten body was found a few feet from the sidewalk around 1 p.m. the next day.

On Aug. 8, Alexandria police shot and killed Darnell Lee Tinsley, who was wanted in connection to a series of rapes in the D.C. area. While Tinsley was not a prime suspect in the Mirzayan murder, The Washington Times reported reported on Aug. 25 the D.C. Metro police were investigating whether he may have had any connection to Mirzayan’s death.

However, the D.C. police have yet to turn up any real evidence and by many accounts the case looks like it will never be solved. A poster asking for information about irzayan’s death, including a photograph of her, still hangs in the window of the Community Policing Center on M Street.

At the same time, the murder has heightened concerns about safety on and around campus this year. During the New Student Orientation in late August, school officials placed extra emphasis on student safety education and sent letters to all on- and off-campus residents describing the incident. And in October, a group of students filmed a video demonstrating security problems in several university dormitories.

While on-campus crime is at its lowest level in years and the Mirzayan murder seems to have faded into the collective memory of the Georgetown community, the recent attempted sexual assault of a female student on 34th Street has provided a sobering bracket to the school year, once again awakening the university community to the realities of campus safety.

The National Academy of Sciences, which the NRC is affiliated with, is offering $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Mirzayan’s case.

In Other News .

Administrative changes: During the past year Georgetown saw a number of changes in its executive structure, with the departure of a number of key administrators and the creation of two new posts. In November, College Dean Robert Lawton, S.J., announced that he would become the president of Loyola Marymount University in the fall, and in April, Medical Center CEO Ken Bloehm announced his resignation in the wake of the possible Medical Center-MedStar partnership.

At the same time, Georgetown created two new executive positions, provost and chief information officer. These positions were filled by Dorothy Brown and Dave Lambert, respectively.

In the neighborhood: In November, Matt Payne (COL ’01) was elected to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, replacing James Fogarty (COL ’98) and Rebecca Sinderbrand (COL ’00) as the ANC’s student representation. In February, the D.C. Court of Appeals refused to rehear a suit that claimed students were ineligible to run and vote in D.C. elections.

And in March, D.C. Metro Police arrested Carl Derek Cooper in connection with the 1997 triple homicide at a Starbucks in upper Georgetown.

On a more positive note, Georgetown also welcomed its first live mascot in 15 years last February, a bulldog named Jack. The student-led effort to bring Jack to campus, which was met by indifference from the administration, brought a live mascot back to Georgetown.

– Dash Robinson contributed to this story.

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