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MIT Revokes Diploma of Student Involved in 1997 Krueger Death

By Jennifer Chung

A recent MIT graduate is planning to sue the institute for revoking his diploma for five years, according to his attorney.

The decision is allegedly the product of a Committee on Discipline hearing for Charles Yoo ’98, who was the pledge trainer at Phi Gamma Delta when Scott S. Krueger ’01 died from alcohol poisoning. Krueger’s death has resulted in the review of several MIT policies by the administration.

The COD has refused to comment on the specific case.

Timothy Burke, who is Yoo’s attorney, stated that the decision was made last Wednesday after a disciplinary hearing attended by both Yoo and Burke. However, Yoo has said that he had not been formally notified of the decision.

“I haven’t received any official documentation or facts yet,” Yoo said. “I’ve just been given verbal comment.” Yoo mentioned that his lawyer was the one contacted with the decision.

More information would likely be released today, he said.

Lawyer not allowed questions

Burke has criticized the COD hearing as being unfair. He reported to the Boston Herald that a statement by Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams, containing information from four unidentified students about Yoo’s involvement in the Krueger incident, was the only testimony presented at the hearing. Additionally, he said that he was not allowed to ask questions at the hearing.

“That’s a fundamental denial of due process. It smacks of ‘star chamber’ tactics,” he told the Herald referring to a 15th century English Court known for its secrecy.

According to Stephen C. Graves, chair of the COD, students do not normally bring lawyers to the hearings. Generally, a lawyer is present only if “there was a potential that a student might need to consult with a lawyer in order to protect himself or herself within the process of the COD hearing,” he said.

If a lawyer is present, he or she is present “just for the purpose of providing consultation” to the student, Graves said. “We would not want the lawyer speaking on behalf of the student or questioning witnesses who brought up charges.”

Yoo’s punishment, although not for his specific charges, is not without precedent. According to Betty Sultan, Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education staff to the committee, the COD has revoked students’ diplomas before.

“It doesn’t happen often, but it can be done... and it has been done,” she said. “I can’t describe the charges, but I would say they’re serious charges. It could be anything.” Additionally, a student’s degree can be withheld if he or she is about to graduate with a serious charge.

“The Institute considers that it still has a relationship with people who graduate,” Sultan said.

Appeals of a COD decision go through the president. “The student may ask the president if the president accepts the recommendation,” Sultan said. If the president does, “the student may ask that the president reconsider.”

Every year, the COD presents a report at the February faculty meeting. Although the COD does not release information about specific cases, it does provide statistics, including the years of students and what the punishments were.

Citations given under new system

Since Krueger’s death, MIT has revised the way alcohol violations are handled.

Under the new policy, students are given alcohol citations based on the type of violation -- either Category I, for underage possession of alcohol, or the more severe Category II, for providing alcohol to minors. Since the implementation of the citation program in February 1998, only 25 citations have been issued, with about two-thirds of those being cited for possession, according to Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates.

The citations were given to both undergraduate and graduate students. Although the program was implemented in Spring of 1998, the first citation was not given until September, with generally less than three citations being given out per subsequent month.

One incident in January of 1999 resulted in six students being issued citations. Only one student has been issued two citations.

“I’m pleased that in effect I think there have been significant changes on campus, that when we first instituted the system, we said we don’t know how many citations there will be,” Bates said. “Clearly what I hope is that the relatively small number of citations means there’s a preventive impact.”

Bates added that it was “helpful to identify people who may have difficulty with alcohol,” and that it was a good thing if the citation system “helps do that.”

An article in The Tech from February of 1998 quoted Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin as stating that about 15 to 20 alcohol incidents were referred to the Dean’s Office each year. In the same article, Bates is said to hope that the citation system will give more realistic numbers.