Faculty letter calls for transparency, reform in student conduct proceedings

December 13, 2019

Content warning: This article discusses sexual harassment and assault.

In a Dec. 12 letter to University President John DeGioia obtained by the Voice, members of Georgetown’s faculty and staff asked Georgetown to modify and explain its policies towards Title IX concerns and expressed support for survivors of assault, harassment, and misconduct. According to the letter, which was signed by 67 staff members across multiple departments, the faculty are “deeply disturbed by recent allegations of sexual misconduct and other forms of intimidation by and toward students on campus.” The letter, which does not name any students or accused perpetrators of misconduct, comes nine days after news broke that Georgetown men’s basketball players Joshua LeBlanc (MSB ’22), Galen Alexander (COL ’21), and Myron Gardner (COL ’23) were named in November civil suits accusing them of sexual harassment, assault, and burglary. One of the complaints was resolved in court on Dec. 9 after all three players agreed to remain 50 feet away from the complainant at all times.

Gardner, who was only named in one complaint, no longer has any open complaints against him. His attorney, Cynthia Goode Works, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post that the settlement is not an admission of guilt. Gardner and Alexander both played in Georgetown’s games against Southern Methodist University and Oklahoma State after the news of the complaints first broke.

Georgetown has released two statements about the allegations. On Dec. 3, Director of Athletics Lee Reed wrote that the university is “deeply committed to the integrity of our athletics program” and noted that all student athletes are required to complete a training on interpersonal violence. 

In a Dec. 4 release, men’s basketball head coach Patrick Ewing said he could not comment on individual cases of student conduct, but that he takes the behavior of his players seriously. “It’s about a culture that expects the best of our players, both on and off the court. Having a strong culture is also about respecting and supporting those members of our community who come forward to report misconduct.”

The faculty letter demands more transparency about issues of assault from the university. The letter cites results of the recent 2019 Campus Climate Survey, in which 38.5 percent of undergraduate women and 59.8 percent of undergraduate men said they believed Georgetown was likely to take accusations of sexual assault or misconduct seriously. The authors of the letter claim this statistic exhibits a lack of trust in the university. “The silence from university leadership in the past week illuminates the reasons for students’ lack of confidence, which can only be counteracted with a clear statement immediately.”

The letter goes on to demand that the university review the Department of Athletics, and all extracurricular groups’ policies in regards to Title IX complaints, encouraging them to follow current faculty guidelines. This policy removes faculty members that are under Title IX investigation from the workplace and allows supervisors to suspend them if necessary. “Parallel policies must apply to students representing the university as members of teams or other activities,” the letter reads.

The letter also recommends looking to other universities for best practices regarding student athlete behavior complaints and demands clarification surrounding the Family Educational Rights and Policy Act (FERPA), which dictates what information regarding individual student conduct the university can release. The letter says that while the authors recognize that the university must follow FERPA regulations when addressing student conduct investigations, the university’s lack of clear explanation of these rules can make students feel “unsupported” by Georgetown. 

The faculty believed it was necessary to write the letter now. “We make this statement with full understanding that the facts of recent events are still not entirely known,” the letter reads. “We urge our students, colleagues, and administration to take seriously the need for greater transparency as a gesture of unconditional support for all our students as the procedural part of the process unfolds.”

Katherine Randolph
Katherine is the Voice's editor-in-chief. She enjoys both causing and covering mayhem, following raccoons on Instagram, and making her own scrunchies.

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