Trachtenberg: Don’t expel students

In the waning days of his leadership, former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg advised GW administrators against expelling students who were caught drinking at Colonial Inauguration this summer.

Trachtenberg said he did not play an official role in determining the punishments for the incoming freshmen but recommended to Linda Donnels, dean of students, that they not be expelled.

“I told her that if I were at liberty to make a decision on my own I would have been less heavy on them than she originally was tempted,” Trachtenberg said. “What I did was say (was that) this is not for me to intervene in but I thought that expulsion was probably too severe and that some sanction was necessary; because they had behaved badly and they needed to understand the seriousness of that. But I said I won’t intervene, I won’t put my judgment ahead of yours.”

Donnels was unavailable for comment.

The University placed at least one student, a female, on strict disciplinary probation after officials found her to have been drinking underage at CI. Due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act along with University policy, the University is unable to comment on her case or the cases of other students who may have been caught drinking underage during CI. Trachtenberg said he did not know the final punishment for the students nor the exact number of students involved.

“I think that that … we are an educational institution and that you have to cut people a little slack particularly at the front end when they haven’t yet been integrated in to the University,” Trachtenberg said. “For us to have expelled those students would have left them completely adrift. It would be an over-sanction for the infraction.”

Tara W. Periera, director of Student Judicial Services, said although SJS has dealt with cases involving CI drinking in the past, it did not play a hand in these specific cases.

“No SJS decision was (overriden) or overturned (by Trachtenberg’s consultation),” Periera said. “It was not as SJS decision.”

Periera said incoming freshmen were never expelled during the proceedings.

“President Trachtenberg did weigh in and work with Dean Donnels,” Periera said, adding that alcohol violations at CI have resulted in student expulsions in the past.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, declined to comment on any specific cases but said administrators at the University assess punishment at an individual level.

“On a case-by-case basis and depending on circumstances as it relates to any incoming new student, the University will attempt to do its best to administer fairly its Student Judicial Code,” Chernak wrote in an e-mail.

Trachtenberg said he has his own ideas for how students should be disciplined for underage drinking at CI.

“What I would have done is made them write a letter indicating they understood the gravity of the offense, how they could have hurt themselves and others and pledge not to do it again, and indicate (that) if they ever did it again they’d be out and there would be no debate,” Trachtenberg said.

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