Leo’s did not fare too well last week; students met at the first Hoya Roundtable of the semester demanding explanations from the University on the quality and changes at the dining hall. Students were frustrated by the University’s decision to renew its contract with Aramark, but PM took a moment to reflect on the Weberian model of bureaucracy that is Georgetown.
“Moderated by Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini, the Hoya Roundtable included the new Provost Robert M. Groves, Chief Business Officer for University Services Debbie Morey, Interim Vice President of Facilities Frank Tiscione, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Margie Bryant, Marketing Manager Kendra Boyer, and Chief Operations Director of Dining Robert Tobin.”
How does Georgetown have more ridiculous titles than the Pentagon? (And why does Leo’s need a “marketing manager”?)
This afternoon, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson announced his approval of raising the evidentiary standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing” for all on campus students, effective January 1, 2013. The standard does not, however, extend to off campus students.
“The decision to change that standard for incidents that happen starting on campus…it’s a change that acknowledges in an important way that this issue matters to students, that it has been a topic of interest for students broadly and student leadership,” Olson said. He emphasized that the GUSA referendum and other such efforts on the behalf of students to convince Olson were heard and taken seriously.
“We have not made a change for incidents off campus. We take the interests of everyone involved in our community seriously…and we take interest in the perspective of our local neighbors and community neighbors seriously.”
Olson also added that the University is soon to undertake a review of the Off Campus Student Life office. “We want this process to be reasonable and appropriate for students…and neighbors,” he said. “Students’ voices have mattered a great deal here…there are other voices that matter as well and we want to be sure we are being thoughtful.”
By Thursday morning, GUSA replaced the poster in Red Square with a handwritten version [pictured left] for students to continue signing.
On Tuesday morning, students noticed that posters mounted in Red Square by the Georgetown University Student Association were missing. The poster, put up on Monday morning, was an open letter to Todd Olson demanding the immediate adoption of the proposed changes to raise the evidentiary standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing.” A set of permanent markers were attached to each open letter for students to sign.
In a press release to students, GUSA announced that the banner, three permanent markers, poster boards and a folder disappeared by Tuesday 8 a.m. “We have asked both Facilities and the Office of Campus Activity Facilities (OCAF) whether they removed the materials on Monday night, and neither department has taken responsibility. We ask that anyone who knows about the whereabouts of the banner contact the GUSA Executive,” the press release read. GUSA intends to replace the banner as soon as possible.
“We are dismayed that, for whatever reason, someone has chosen to stifle free expression on this extremely important issue. However, we are eager to restore this forum for student advocacy, and we intend to quickly replace the banner with a handwritten version.”
This morning, the Georgetown University Student Association mounted a poster in Red Square of an open letter to Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson calling for the “immediate adoption” of the proposed changes to raise the evidentiary standard in the Student Code of Conduct. The letter is for students to read and sign on their way to class. “We’ve heard many students express deep frustration with student conduct processes,” the letter reads. “In general, the system appears unpredictable and opaque, and few students view their interactions with the Office of Student Conduct as a learning experience.” [Italics theirs.]
This open letter is part of GUSA’s effort to show Olson that there is overwhelming student support for raising the Student Code of Conduct standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing,” except in cases of sexual assault, which must comply with the Department of Education’s standards. In particular, the letter in Red Square is meant to educate students on why this “clear and convincing” burden of proof is an important issue. On Thursday, September 27, GUSA will hold a referendum on the same issue.
“We certainly won’t give up if the referendum doesn’t elicit a satisfactory response from the administration, and we’ll just continue to pressure them until we get a response that is satisfactory to students,” GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount wrote in an email to Vox.
In the past, GUSA referendums held significant power of persuasion with the administration. When the university attempted to enforce a total ban on kegs in 2006, GUSA conducted a referendum where the majority of students rejected this proposal. The referendum held enough weight that the administration revoked this ban.
Some GUSA members voiced concern at the last meeting that an unenforced, stand-alone referendum will not have enough power to sway Olson’s end decision, and may even result in a loss of credibility for GUSA.
Kohnert-Yount views the situation from a different angle. “If we show overwhelming student support for ‘clear and convincing,’ it’s going to be that much harder for the administration to justify a decision that goes against the self-expressed interests of students,” she wrote. “That’s why it’s so important to us to educate every student on why this is important and why they need to vote in this election…hence the letter in Red Square.”
At last night’s meeting, the Georgetown University Student Association Senate and Executive met to vote on the bill that describes the proposed changes to the Student Code of Conduct evidentiary standard. The bill passed unanimously, with all 12 members voting in its favor.
In the Senate’s last meeting before elections on September 27, the main topic of discussion was the recommendation for the change in the Student Code of Conduct that has been in the works since the spring, officially passed on April 26. Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson made clear that he would postpone his decision until the end of September, or when the audit of the Office of Student Affairs is complete. The office is being reviewed by one university that has implemented the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard, and one that has not.
GUSA expected this resolution to be implemented over five months ago and is, therefore, taking further action. Senate Transition Chair Nate Tisa (SFS’14) said in his opening statement the “view, early on, as members of the executive as well as members of the committee, is that this is not acceptable to us.” Steps have been taken to remedy the situation and educate the student body on the benefits of this new standard.
When the floor opened for debate, many senators spoke in favor of the bill, stressing both the difficulty and the importance of its implementation. GUSA Senator Samuel Greco (SFS’15) mentioned the “common effort” this referendum will require. “It’s going to take all of us going through dorms, knocking on doors and getting the word out. But I think that its essential for the betterment of the student body and for the end of this real disservice that the ‘more likely than not’ standard is,” he said.
GUSA Senator Jay Factor (COL’14), also strongly in favor of the bill, expressed a critical concern about the non-binding nature of this referendum. “Students might think that this referendum is actually going to change it,” he said. But if this endeavor is not successful, “this could make students cynical towards GUSA.”
On Wednesday, the Georgetown University Student Association sent an open letter to Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson pushing him to accept the Disciplinary Review Committee’s proposal to raise the Code of Conduct standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing.”
“Our goal with the letter to Dr. Olson was to, hopefully, speed a favorable decision on clear and convincing. The Disciplinary Review Committee’s recommendations should be taken seriously on student code of conduct, since it involves a team of administrators, staff, faculty and students,” Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) wrote in an email to Vox. ”In the past Dr. Olson’s signing off on a recommendation has been merely a matter of process and not a means to delay a recommendation from being implemented. We are looking forward to a positive culmination of what has been a lengthy process.”
In the letter, GUSA emphasizes the struggle students have with the student conduct process. “In general, the system appears unpredictable and opaque, and few students view their interactions with the Office of Student Conduct as a learning experience,” the letter read. The letter also pointed out that the Georgetown University Law Center uses the “clear and convincing” standard, as do other prominent universities (Duke University, Cornell University, and University of Pennsylvania).
At the end of last semester, GUSA unanimously passed a resolution in support of raising the burden of proof standard. However, with the new semester back in swing, Olson has not shown any signs that he will accept the standard. In late April, Olson responded saying he would seriously consider the recommendation.
Olson arranged an “external review” for late September to examine both the Code of Student Conduct and the Division of Student Affairs and its staff. He plans to delay his decision until after this review takes place.
At yesterday’s meeting with the advisory neighborhood commission, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson listed all the University’s plans to reduce off-campus partying in West Georgetown, Burleith, and Foxhall. According to the Georgetown Dish(Vox was not able to attend the meeting), upon hearing Olson’s promises of on-campus social life, the crowd broke out into an impromptu applause in enthusiastic support of the University’s new efforts. Olson also introduced the new Lauralyn Lee, associate vice president for community engagement.
As weknow from the past few weeks, the changes include new food trucks available around campus from Thursday to Saturday as well as the abolishment of tight on-campus party registration rules. Now, students will be able to host on-campus parties without advance registration. Olson also mentioned the New South Student Center as a method to refocus student life on campus, and reiterated the University’s plan to house 90 percent of undergraduates on campus by 2025.
“I don’t believe there are any questions to Todd about moving forward. The ANC was supportive, and we’re supportive of the Georgetown Community Partnership,” Commissioner Ed Solomon said to Vox. “We all agree that the program is a result-oriented partnership…when the programs are all implemented. I think we’re all speaking the same thing. There wasn’t really any controversy.”
Please, no goose lighting
In other news, the ANC also discussed two new restaurant additions to the Georgetown area: Good Stuff Eatery and ShopHouse. Good Stuff plans to open in December at 3291 M Street, and the ANC approved the awning, doors, and signs. According to the Patch, the ANC did request a change from the restaurant’s proposed goose lights to a slightly less bright choice.
The opening date for ShopHouse remains unclear, but will open either at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
Yesterday evening, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E held a special meeting to consider proposed revisions to the Georgetown Campus Plan. The ANC commissioners in attendance voted unanimously, 6-0, to endorse the revised plan. Then the floor opened up to residents (to complain more about student behavior) and students (to attempt to maintain our dignity).
“The university is very encouraged – the members of the community and the students here echoed a lot of sentiments that were expressed in the negotiations and through this process,” university spokesperson Stacy Kerr said to Vox. “This isn’t a victory for one side or the other, but for everybody, and it’s a path to move forward.”
The next step entails filing the plan with the DC Zoning Commission by June 18. According to ANC Chair Ron Lewis, the Zoning Commission should have a decision by July, setting off a series of processing deadlines for both the University and ANC. But, as Lewis noted during the meeting, “If the Zoning Commission says ‘OK’, this [remainder of the process] becomes a formality.”
At 6 p.m. on Monday evening, GUSA held the first-ever conference-call town hall, providing students with the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions on the recent campus plan agreement. In an effort to make up for the lack of student representation in campus plan negotiations, GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) organized the discussion as a formal way to provide information to students about the effects of the plan on student life. Gustafson began by introducing President John J. DeGioia, followed by remarks by Vice-President of Student Affairs Todd Olson. After a brief presentation, students were asked for their questions. Here are the highlights.
DeGioia: The undergraduate program will stay on the main campus. We learned of the long-term plans for Georgetown to build a satellite campus from the agreement last week. According to the documents, the University will locate at least 1,000 students in the School of Continuing Studies at one or more satellite locations “not within the zip code 20007” by the start of 2014. It was unclear, however, whether undergraduates would eventually be housed or take classes at another location. DeGioia explained that, for Georgetown to grow, it would need to expand past the main campus, but he emphasized that the main campus would be the locus for undergraduate life at Georgetown. “We believe that our undergraduate experience best can take place on this historic campus,” he said. “Our vision prioritizes development of an enhanced living-and-learning campus focused on undergraduates on the main campus, on this plot of ground.”
Olson: New noise rule not a radical departure. According to the campus plan agreement, the University will adopt a policy for off-campus conduct by fall 2013, which adheres to the standard that if noise can be heard across the property line, it’s too loud. Olson, however, said that he regards the new policy more as a change in specificity more than in substance, saying that both the new policy and the current one are based on principles of being respectable neighbors. He noted that George Washington University has the same standard.
Tentatively signaling a major shift in University policy, the Disciplinary Review Committee today approved a change to the Student Code of Conduct that raises the burden of proof standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing.” The change, which must now be approved by Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, would establish a more rigorous requirement to find a student guilty of a Code violation and issue necessary sanctions.
The DRC, comprised of students and administrators, is the primary body tasked with considering possible changes or amendments to the Student Code of Conduct. The current Code states that a student can be found guilty of a violation as long as it is “more likely than not” that he or she committed the offense. The amendment would require evidence of wrongdoing beyond merely the likelihood that a crime was committed.
Former GUSA President and Vice President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) and Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) spent their executive term fighting to pass the more rigorous “clear and convincing” clause. The two created a Student Advocacy Office as a resource for students facing disciplinary charges. ”Our loftiest goal was to raise the burden of proof, something Georgetown as a student body has been trying to do for years,” former SAO coordinator James Pickens (COL ’12) said. ”We’re hoping that [Dr. Olson] will consider the recommendations favorably.”
The current GUSA Executive, which has supported the efforts of their predecessors, hopes to see the proposal implemented in the fall. “This is a great first step in improving the adjudication process at Georgetown, and we encourage Dr. Olson to follow through on the desire of the duly appointed committee. This is the right thing for students,” GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS’ 13) said.
“Hopefully in the fall we can have it implemented,” GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) said.