Independent Review Committee submits recommendations

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Created over five months ago in response to Campus Ministry USA’s protest on Sept. 23, the Independent Review Committee (IRC) released their recommendations to the University yesterday. 

The first is “that the University and City of Greencastle enter into a Memorandum of Understanding that specifically addresses and delineates areas of control when both agencies are indeed on the DePauw campus.” 

The second is “that a Campus-Community-Liason Committee be established for the purpose of ongoing discussions about efforts to enhance and improve the relationship between the city, Greencastle Police Department and the University.”

The third is “that the DePauw new student orientation include a session about the City of Greencastle and that the Greencastle Police Department be invited to make a presentation to the students.” 

And the final recommendation is “that key University leaders develop and implement an on-call system to ensure coverage and availability for camps incidents.”

The IRC also determined that “the Greencastle Police Department action in taking down and retaining the individuals who became physical did not appear to be in violation of any Greencastle Police Department police and specifically was consistent with Rule IIIB Justification for Use of Non-Deadly Force.”

In a press conference held yesterday at 4 p.m., President Casey said the events of Sept. 23 were “perhaps the most challenging day of the eight years I’ve been here.” 

Troy Riggs, Myra C. Selby and Joseph Slash constituted the committee. Riggs is a former director of public safety in Indianapolis and a now a professor at IUPUI's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Selby is a former associate justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, and Slash is a former deputy mayor of Indianapolis and retired president of the Indianapolis Urban League. This information was sent to university students, faculty and staff in an email by President Casey on Oct. 27.

“I was thrilled we were able to put together a panel of such high quality,” said Casey in the press conference. “In order to make sure the committee was truly operating independent of the university, we established a third-party contact.”

John Neighbours, a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, was “set up as a liaison between the administration and the committee.” 

According to the 16-page document titled, “DePauw University Independent Review Committee Report,” the IRC was charged “ to review the events of September 23, 2015, at DePauw University and offer forward looking recommendations designed to improve the safety and security of all those who are a part of this community.”

A summary of the IRC’s work concluded the report’s introduction. They reviewed “over 400 pages of documents,” conducted dozens of interviews, facilitated a campus-wide hearing, established a confidential e-mail address and viewed Greencastle Police Department Bodycam video footage, the report said. 

Several noteworthy determinations emerged from this report. According to the report, “DePauw University was not well prepared for the events of September 23, 2015. There was an overall lack of command and control at the event and this led to everyone not knowing who was in charge. This was exacerbated by the fact that many staff were not wearing any type of identification leading to confusion for those responding.” 

Student Life and Chief of Public Safety Angela Nally were not prepared to handle the Campus Ministry USA demonstration, the report said. Nally “did not have command of the situation from beginning to end, and when she called for assistance and the Greencastle Police Department responded, she continued to ask questions and seek guidance from several other sources.” 

“It also appeared as if the Student Life staff was involved both from the standpoint of carrying out their role in keeping students safe,” said the IRC, “as well as becoming involved in the incident itself. Thus, there was a question of who holds students accountable for their actions.”

In terms of safety, the Committee noted the “sharp contrast” between Campus Ministry USA’s visit to DePauw as opposed to other college campuses. On most campuses, the report said, students ignored Brother Jed. 

This contrast seems to further illustrate the University’s lack of preparation for such events. The IRC continued to say, “The response of DePauw University Public Safety Officers and Student Life staff sent mixed messages to students that day. Many students were looking to the University to answer their questions about whether or not the demonstrators had a right to be on the campus and believed that their rights as students to be on the campus overrode any rights of the ‘peaceful protestors.’”

In the press conference, Selby called Campus Ministry USA’s speech “insidious.”

“Campus Ministry is effective only insofar as it encourages and causes people to act in ways that are not otherwise appropriate,” said Selby. “On other campuses, through the use of lots of different tactical means, … students hear the very same messages that were heard here, but their reaction is, in a largely connected and communicative way, to ignore it.”

“So you then don’t have to be in that very difficult position of hearing the highly hurtful and insidious speech and reacting because you’re not hearing it in the first place,” Selby added. 

The IRC admitted the existence of important external factors that did not fall under the jurisdiction of their report. According to the final paragraph of the third section, “…the IRC recognizes that there are many issues and concerns that have emerged during their investigation that are not directly germane to the Charge given to the Committee.” 

“These topics and concerns… emerged in almost every interview, conversation or communication,” the IRC went on to say. “They are noted here for completeness.”

The University embraces the recommendations by the IRC and aims to implement them as soon as possible.