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Expelled Student's Lawsuit Nears Trial

By Nicole A. Sherry
Staff Reporter

A lawsuit against the Institute and several deans by a former graduate student will come to trial May 16.

Jeffrey W. Buckholz, a former graduate student in civil engineering, was expelled from MIT in April 1985 as the result of a fistfight. Buckholz contends that he received an unfair disciplinary hearing, said Bruce T. MacDonald, Buckholz's lawyer.

Buckholz originally brought a suit against MIT and eight members of the MIT administration on May 7, 1985. His charges included several counts including breach of contract, slander, and invasion of privacy, Macdonald said.

Bias chief reason for trial

"The main complaint is that the bias of MIT and administrative personnel denied him [Buckholtz] a fair hearing," Macdonald said. "It was drummed up on campus that he was dangerous. He went in [the COD hearing] with the deck stacked against him. It was a forgone conclusion that he was going to be expelled."

The case going to trial is against MIT, former Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Leo Osgood, Associate Dean for Student Affairs Robert M. Randolph, the MIT Committee on Discipline, and former COD chairman Elias P. Gyftopoulos, said Macdonald.

Randolph and Gyftopoulos refused to comment. McBay and Osgood could not reached.

The case arises again at the present time because a judge has now found the charge of bias worthy of investigation, according to Macdonald. Since the time of the incident, several charges and defendants have been dismissed from the case.

MIT has made no offer to settle the case. "My hope was that the case would settle. MIT has taken the position that the case would have to be tried," said Macdonald.

First settlement out-of-court

Buckholz was involved in a fistfight with Warren W. Sheaffer G, a graduate student in chemical engineering, on March 19, 1985. Buckholz was not injured but Sheaffer needed to be taken to the infirmary.

Each filed charges against one another, and the cases were heard by the COD and the Cambridge Court.

On April 19, 1985, the COD heard the case and recommended Buckholz's suspension, which was upheld on April 24, 1985, by former President Paul E. Gray '54.

In a letter sent to Buckholz, Gray stated, "The action with which you have been charged is extremely serious and is intolerable in this community. Any request for review of this decision will not be considered by the president and by the COD prior to April 1995."

On April 22, 1985, the Cambridge court case was settled out of court. Sheaffer received $500.