Students discussed changes to disclosure policies and disciplinary procedures at a town hall meeting Wednesday night, proposing modifications and arguing the merits of varying degrees of disclosure.

Sponsored by the disciplinary review committee and attended by a handful of students, the meeting was designed to allow students to have exposure to varying methods of implementing disclosure resulting in two proposals, according to organizers.

These suggestions called for expanding the number of people allowed to hear adjudication results and publishing a list of sanctions connected with the charges for review by the Georgetown community. The panel did not reach a consensus on whether to disclose names of students found responsible for charges brought against them.

Some students raised concerns that if identities of parties involved are not disclosed, students may not be able to be vindicated. Other students wondered if disclosing names of the responsible party might aid in that student’s educational process.

“If someone commits sexual assault, they lose the right [to privacy],” Senior GUSA representative Jeff Burns (COL ’01) said. “That’s how it is in the real world; that’s how it should be here. Of course [the perpetrator will] want to keep it quiet, but [they] lose that right.”

GUSA President Tawan Davis (COL ’01) agreed.

“If I’m part of the community after doing something egregious, the university needs to know,” Davis said. “That would be a more profound education for me than putting it up in a box somewhere.”

During the discussion, participants debated the merits and disadvantages of changing the disclosure policy. Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson asked what the community would gain by knowing what happened to students, saying that as information spread further away from directly involved parties there may be a “lessening of benefits to the community.”

Asking if students could accept responsibility for others’ ability to keep information confidential, Johnson said, “Should we leave it up to individuals who they can tell?”

Director of Residence Life Bethany Marlowe pointed out that presently, witnesses who participate in a hearing are unable to hear final outcomes of the cases in which they testify.

Davis said he advocates disclosing results of hearings to the university community so students can learn how the university has responded to allegations and crimes.

“I need to know, people around need to know, that the university gives a darn,” Davis said.

Burns said that individuals could be vindicated through expanded disclosure policies.

“We need to know that students are not prejudged, and can be found innocent,” Burns said. “We also need to know that Georgetown has standards, that there are consequences. People need to know the university will take a stand.”

The release of case outcomes in the form of a book compiled by the Department of Public Safety was debated, with much attention paid to how limited access would be. Marlowe was hesitant about a wide release of the information because of its potential to become “a public relations nightmare,” and most participants agreed that access should be limited to the Georgetown community.

Davis also proposed releasing information about cases after a waiting period of six months.

“That way we could know ideally that there is something being done about the process,” Davis said.

Since the 1998 Higher Education amendment allowing for more liberal disclosure policies was made to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Georgetown’s disciplinary review board has considered changing their policy regarding disclosure. The university considers disciplinary records the same as academic records, which are kept confidential.

Currently, the student code of conduct states that in Category B and C offenses, victims may sign a waiver allowing them to know what disciplinary procedures were taken against the guilty party, and may consult with the university’s office of general counsel about release of information pertaining to Category A offenses. The waiver, however, legally binds the signer to not release the adjudication information to anyone but his or her parents. The office of student conduct will currently disclose the final outcome of disciplinary proceedings involving violations of some Category A, B and C offenses, including damage or destruction, inappropriate sexual touching, physical assault, theft, arson, physical assault with bodily injury, sexual assault, theft, use of dangerous objects, defacement, disorderly conduct, disruption, harassment and violations of local laws and statutes.

The board will submit findings to Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez, yielding preliminary recommendations by the end of the semester. The town hall meeting was an effort to hear students’ opinion on the issue, but Marlowe said she wished more students had attended.

“We want to hear from more people because we need more information,” Marlowe said.

Burns said he thought the meeting was a step in the right direction.

“It shows the university is taking issues seriously, and is open to changing the policy,” Burns said.

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