Letter to the Editor: ‘Lawmakers’ column leaves out central facts
At the risk of drawing attention to an opinion piece printed on March 2 that is openly defamatory, I feel it is necessary to respond to the charges leveled at the entire public safety community here at Georgia College.
As the Student Government Association attorney general I feel it is absolutely vital that I stand up for everyone who participates in the student disciplinary process. From SNAP drivers to the Student Judicial Board and all the way up to the officers who won’t dignify this “opinion” with a response of their own.
Specifically, I want to address the most asinine and unfounded charge that Public Safety, and by extension, the student judiciary, “flat out ignored state-laws.” That statement illustrates a troubling level of ignorance about police practices and an important facet of law enforcement known as “officer’s personal discretion.”
In the column, the author cited police reports that did not fully disclose the extensive personal interaction officers have with the students they come across.
The officers have the discretion to deal with students differently, and that’s the way it should be. Students don’t want a one size fits all, arrest everyone, policy. We want officers who are willing to listen to our particular circumstances. We want them to consider our attitudes, our willingness to cooperate, and the incredible damage an arrest record can do. Can you imagine what would happen if we did what the author of that piece was recommending? What if we arrested and suspended every student that drank underage or smoked marijuana? Is that the school we want Georgia College to be? Absolutely not.
The primary concern of the Georgia College Police is to keep students safe, not be a revenue generator for the city of Milledgeville by clapping students in handcuffs at the first whiff of a beer. Rather, “in lieu of arrest” students are processed through the Judicial Board where education is our primary goal.
It is during this process that I work closely with officers to ensure that students receive neither a life sentence nor a slap on the wrist. We consider the details of every case, the particular needs of the individual student, and their impact on our campus. Educate and hold accountable. That’s our purpose.
What the piece failed to mention is the Board’s very real power to hold offenders accountable for their actions, and our ability to maintain academic integrity throughout the campus. Fines, community service hours, probation, mandatory drug abuse screening, counseling, suspension and expulsion have all been employed by the Board to ensure students are held accountable, fairly.
Public Safety and the student judiciary is all about making sure students learn to abide by a code of conduct that exemplifies reason, respect and responsibility. We do this without arresting everyone for everything and we do it without throwing people out of school. We do it fairly, consistently, and with the utmost respect of those who interact with us. We do it without clown costumes.
-Andrew Whittaker, senior political science major