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Charges dropped against UMD students

(U-WIRE) COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland dropped charges April 5 against three students who were accused of disorderly conduct after shouting comments and questions to Lynne Cheney, the United States vice president’s wife, during a campus forum in February.

Graduate students Michael Cawdery and Ryan Grim and junior Chuck DeVoe were charged.

The university’s Code of Conduct bans students from “engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct on university premises or at university-sponsored activities which interferes with the activities of others.

“I can’t disclose individual cases, but there have been no charges filed against any students that were referred. No disciplinary action has been taken,” said John Zacker, director of student discipline.

The conflict stemmed from a comment and two questions Cawdery, DeVoe and Grim shouted outside the prescribed format during the Feb. 29 Brody Public Policy Forum for which Cheney was the featured guest. Audience members had been provided with cards to submit questions for the moderator to ask. In response to one of Cheney’s statements, Cawdery shouted “bullshit.” DeVoe later called out a question about slavery reparations and Cheney responded by saying she did not support the idea.

Grim’s question, which he called out as the event ended, pertained to same-sex marriages in San Francisco and Cheney’s openly gay daughter, Mary. Cheney did not reply.

The campus organization of American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Office of Judicial Programs on the students’ behalf earlier on April 5. In the letter, the ACLU urged the university to drop charges, expunge the accusations from the students’ records and issue an apology.

“Basically, we’re glad the (Judicial Programs Office) came to the rational decision that they should’ve gotten to when they got the complaint,” said ACLU co-president Stuart McPhail. “There was really no justification (for the charges).”

The students said they are happy the charges have been dropped, but said the action was motivated by media attention instead of the merits of the case.

“I just think it’s shameless how quickly (university officials) folded and how obvious they made it that they’re willing to intimidate speech until they’re pressured by an outside authority,” Grim said. “I wish that their student Code of Conduct was enough, in and of itself, to protect the student body.”

Illinois police find body of Pi Kappa Alpha pledge

(U-WIRE) CARBONDALE, Ill. – After five days searching through the murky waters of Cedar Lake, authorities found the body of Southern Illinois University freshman and Pi Kappa Alpha pledge Brent Johnson Thursday afternoon.

Jackson County Sheriff Robert Burns said Johnson’s body was found at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the main portion of Cedar Lake.

Illinois Conservation Police Officer Chris Mohrman said conservation officers found Johnson’s body through drag bar netting in an area of the lake that is 16 feet deep.

Johnson had been missing and presumed drowned since early Sunday morning after he and another person fell from a canoe in the lake.

Burns said the deceased freshman was camping with 11 other pledges and three fraternity members in the area.

According to the sheriff, the rest of the fraternity pledges and members were asleep at the campsite and unaware the canoe carrying Johnson and another pledge capsized.

Larry Dietz, vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, previously said if the group’s tragic camping trip involved alcohol, the fraternity would be banned at the university.

compiled by Michael Barnett

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