Van Slyke needs to address his past

August 28, 2008

Boasting an impressive blend of academic background and practical experience, Dr. Jeffrey Van Slyke, Georgetown’s Director of Public Safety since June 1, seems like an ideal candidate on paper. However, as the Voice’s cover story this week details, a number of controversies in Van Slyke’s past raise questions that he needs to address before the Georgetown community can put their trust in him.

Perhaps the most disturbing of these controversies is Van Slyke’s use of informants to infiltrate and monitor student groups at the University of Texas. In an interview with the Voice this week, Van Slyke refused to rule out the use of informants at Georgetown. While President John DeGioia told the Voice that he was committed to Georgetown operating in a transparent manner, Van Slyke himself should pledge to eschew the use of informants on the Hilltop.

In another incident, one of Van Slyke’s officers at UT was accused of racial profiling. It’s not the incident itself, but Van Slyke’s preemptive dismissal of the ensuing investigation which is troubling. “People want to vent, and they feel like they have been mistreated,” he told the Daily Texan. “Truth and reality are different than how people feel.” To avoid incidents like this in the future, Van Slyke should explain to the Georgetown community how he plans to address issues of diversity and tolerance training within DPS.

The University of Texas Police Department’s purchase of assault rifles and shotguns while its campus was among the safest in the nation is similarly disturbing. The pepper spray and batons already carried by DPS are unnecessary. Van Slyke should not seek to further arm DPS.

Given Van Slyke’s past, and in an effort to improve general transparency, DPS should also consider making officer reports available to the public through open records requests.

This is not to say that Van Slyke is not qualified to head DPS. On the contrary, his extensive experience at the University of Texas and the University of Mississippi, in addition to his multiple degrees, suggest that he has much to bring to the Georgetown community. But he must answer questions about his past before he can begin to address Georgetown’s future.

Will Sommer recuses himself from this editorial.

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The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!

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