GU students urge disclosure of judicial hearing’s findings

Spurred by student demand for information about an alcohol-induced fight that led to the death of David Shick, Georgetown University officials said they are reconsidering their policy against disclosing outcomes of student judiciary hearings.

Shick’s death resulted from a Feb. 18 altercation with other Georgetown students after returning from drinking at a local bar. Shick, a junior, fell and hit his head on the pavement during the brawl and died four days later of head injuries.

Georgetown’s Student Association passed a resolution calling for the disclosure of the findings in a hearing on Shick’s death that took place in August. The university denied requests to release the findings, including the names of the offenders and any actions taken against them, in accordance with Georgetown’s privacy policy in the Student Code of Conduct.

Juan Gonzalez, Georgetown’s vice president for student affairs, agreed to instruct the Disciplinary Review Committee to examine Georgetown’s policy and make some recommendations to the administration by the end of the academic year, said Julia Bataille, assistant vice president for communications in the Georgetown Office of Public Affairs.

Bataille said the Disciplinary Review Committee will issue a report on its progress at the end of the fall semester and will present final recommendations by May 1. The committee will review the possible benefits and drawbacks of releasing the information.

Students’ privacy in judicial hearings is protected under the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, legislation that is also called the Buckley Amendment, and prohibits the release of personally identifiable information to third parties.

The parent or eligible student shall provide a signed and dated written consent before an educational agency or institution discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, section 99.30 of FERPA reads.

Georgetown did not release the outcome of Shick’s case to his parents because they did not agree to sign a confidentiality agreement that would restrict them from sharing the outcome of the case with anyone, including their children, Georgetown SA members Tawan Davis and Shaina Jones wrote in a Sept. 22 letter to The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper.

Shick’s brother is a Georgetown freshman.

Under 1998 amendments to the FERPA legislation, a university can choose to disclose the outcome of the judicial hearings involving students who allegedly commit violent crimes.

Georgetown students said they are pressing for disclosure of the information to learn the specific details surrounding the hearing and especially to disclose the information to Shick’s parents.

The SA resolution calls for Georgetown to:

o release a brief synopsis of the facts of the fight that led to Shick’s death, including the sequence of events, the university’s response and the charges incurred;

o release the outcome of the case to the Shick’s family, including the names and sanctions of students brought into the university’s disciplinary review process concerning the case;

o inform the general Georgetown community of the outcome of the case, excluding names, but including sanctions rendered at the latest hearing;

o work with the disciplinary review committee to undergo a full and comprehensive review of the disclosure policy for adjudication proceedings.

The university has only conceded to the last request so far. The incidents surrounding the death of David Shick have brought widespread concern to the Georgetown community regarding issues of safety, alcohol, and student interaction, according to the resolution.

GW officials said that any changes Georgetown implements will not affect GW’s policy.

Within our system, I am not aware of any change, said Linda Schutjer, associate general counsel for the University. Disclosing outcome is something we’re all being pressured to do.

From time to time, the law is changed to require or allow some (disclosure), she said. (Campus) neighbors want to know specifically what’s happening.

David Pine, manager of Student Judicial Services, said his office cannot release personably identifiable information on students, but the office does release general statistics on student cases, including a comprehensive mid-year report on general student misconduct.

It is helpful to have students realize that there are consequences to their actions, Pine said about the general statistics.

Although Shick’s death was ruled a homicide by a District medical examiner in June, U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis did not press charges against the accused students. Lewis said Shick’s role in the fight would make a conviction unlikely, according to The Washington Post.

Georgetown recently broke ground on a small park in Shick’s memory. The park is scheduled to be finished and dedicated next weekend.

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