Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Inside our pages: More clarity in good reporting

The GW community knows Sigma Alpha Epsilon member Charles Smith was arrested for assaulting a University Police Department officer Sept. 14. You know because Hatchet reporters dug through police reporters and investigated the incident. Now you know Smith has been expelled for his actions.

Whether you take it as a lesson that serious actions have serious repercussions, as a message of relief that a student who has committed a violent crime is no longer on campus or as a story that gives you a better understanding of campus news, you know because The Hatchet told you.

The problem is when we reported the story, we didn’t take proper credit for the work we did to get that information. All you read last Thursday was that Robert Chernak, vice president of Student Academic and Support Services, provided information about two expelled students. From the sound of it, the Hatchet reporters who wrote the story did no investigative work at all. They simply seem to have had a conversation with Chernak in which he volunteered judicial information about two students.

But GW has a policy that it does not disclose personally identifying information about student judicial records even in cases when officials legally could.

What really happened was that Hatchet reporters combed the University Police crime log and Metropolitan Police arrest records for the week of Sept. 9 and noticed that one student was charged with assault. By inquiring with UPD, MPD and other sources, The Hatchet gathered details of the incident and brought the community important information.

When we learned from Student Judicial Services that two students had been expelled, we asked SJS for details on the charges. Turned away by SJS for basic information about the charges, we turned to Chernak.

Recognizing the importance of understanding what is going on in their judicial system, Chernak answered questions about two students who have been expelled without mentioning their names. He simply told The Hatchet what the students were charged with and that the student who assaulted an officer had two previous charges on his record.

Because The Hatchet had done its own investigative work, we knew who those two unnamed expelled students were, and we attached their names to the results of their judicial proceedings. We include names not to punish students who may or may not have made a mistake, but because our fundamental job as a newspaper is to report facts and details of things that happen in our community.

The very same sequence of events has been replayed countless times and will continue to be replayed as we strive to get important information out to you. To ensure there is no confusion that GW does not violate its disclosure policies, we will make it clearer in the future what information we gathered on our own and what information the University decided to provide its students.

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