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Buckholz Loses '85 Lawsuit

By Don Lacey

Former graduate student Jeffrey W. Buckholz's nine-year-long lawsuit against the Institute and several administration officials ended May 24, when the Middlesex Superior Court ruled for the defense.

The lawsuit charged MIT, the Committee on Discipline, three employees of the Student Affairs Office, and Professor of Nuclear Engineering Elias P. Gyftopoulos ScD '58, then-chairman of COD, with slander, breach of contract, and various other misdeeds,according to Bruce T. MacDonald, Buckholz's attorney.

The lawsuit was originally filed in May 1985, but was repeatedly held up because of procedural delays and an appeal, MacDonald said.

Buckholz was expelled from the Department of Civil Engineering on April 24, 1985, after a fight with Warren W. Sheaffer SM '86, a student in the chemical engineering department.

The dispute between Buckholz and Sheaffer centered mainly on remarks made the previous day by Sheaffer to Professor Nigel H. M. Wilson '70, Buckholz's academic adviser, MacDonald said. After the fight, Sheaffer had to be taken to the infirmary where he was treated and released.

This decision follows Buckholz's earlier legal battles with the COD, which first recommended his expulsion, and in court, where he paid Sheaffer $500 in an out-of-court settlement.

Buckholz's case is a good example of the courts' general unwillingness to interfere with university disciplinary procedures, MacDonald said. "It really demonstrates how much discretion and autonomy courts give colleges in managing their affairs," he said.

"MIT's disciplinary system is very unforgiving," MacDonald added.

In an earlier interview, MacDonald had referred to Buckholz's COD hearing as biased. But Professor Leo Osgood, one of the defendants in the lawsuit and dean-on-call for the Institute, defends MIT's discipline policy.

Osgood said that while MIT's disciplinary process has undergone a few minor changes since 1985, the overall system was "very fair to all parties involved."

Osgood dismissed allegations that Buckholz's suspension hearing was biased, saying that MacDonald's characterizations of the COD were inaccurate.

Buckholz, who was approximately six months away from receiving a PhD at the time of his expulsion, never completed his doctoral studies, MacDonald said. He now owns a traffic consulting firm in Jacksonville, Fla.

Buckholz could not be reached for comment.