Georgia Tech’s President G.P.”Bud” Peterson. (AJC file, 2011)
Photo: Johnny Crawford
Photo: Johnny Crawford

Lawmaker to spotlight Tech’s treatment of accused students

Georgia Tech will face questions today from a state lawmaker looking at whether the school is doing enough to protect the rights of students accused of sexual assault and other wrongdoing.

The hearing could be the first time Georgia Tech president Bud Peterson speaks publicly about the institution’s student discipline processes since recent reports about the impact of the school’s aggressive disciplining.

Georgia Tech has expelled or suspended nearly every student it has investigated for sexual misconduct in the past five years, according to reports viewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The school has also handed down stiff penalties to fraternities, including one in which members were accused last summer of hurling racial slurs at a black female student.

“We’re going to let the taxpayers of Georgia understand why there is not a safe place on the Georgia Tech campus for their sons to receive due process,” said state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, chairman of the House committee that allocates funding to Georgia’s colleges, who is hosting the hearing.

Georgia Tech’s aggressive punishments have led to two lawsuits by students who say they were wrongfully forced out of the school after being accused of sexual assault. One of the students has been reinstated, and handling of the fraternity incident has led to a former state supreme court justice being called in to review the case. The fraternity’s attorney is scheduled to testify today.

In addition to Peterson, Tech’s dean of students John Stein and Peter Paquette, an assistant dean of students and head of Tech’s Office of Student Integrity have been asked to attend today’s hearing. Robert Shibley, executive director of the First Amendment advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is also on the agenda to discuss due process in higher education. Officials from the University System of Georgia including its chief lawyer and team of lobbyists will also be on hand today.

The university system is creating a set of uniform due process guidelines for all 29 of Georgia’s public colleges. Ehrhart wants each school to implement the policies or risk cuts in funding.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.