M.U.M. officials: Suspect was calm after first assault

University comes under fire for its handling of incident that occurred before Monday’s fatal stabbing.

Maharishi University of Management officials say Shuvender Sem, the student charged with fatally stabbing freshman Levi Butler Monday night in the university dining hall, did not appear to be a danger after the afternoon incident in which he allegedly stabbed another student with a pen.

The university has come under fire from community members and from friends of Butler in the past few days for not reporting the first incident to police.

“The school should have been able to handle it a lot better than that. It’s outrageous what they did,” Matthew Scholten, a high school friend of Butler’s from California, said in a telephone interview this morning.

But universityld [sic] The Ledger by telephone this morning officials say there was no reason to believe Sem presented an imminent threat to anyone.

“What we thought we were dealing with was some sort of seizure … some sort of episode that had passed,” said Joel Wysong, the university’s dean of men, who said he takes responsibility for the decision. Wysong was the person who took Sem into his custody after the first incident, in which Sem allegedly attacked fellow student John Killian with a ball-point pen during a class.

In a statement released Wednesday, M.U.M. executive vice president Craig Pearson said the incident “appeared as a very brief 10 second scuffle and it could not be immediately determined if it was provoked by one side or the other.

“It resulted in a [one-half inch] abrasion on the cheek with a little blood and a simple bandaid was applied,” the statement continued. “It initially appeared to have been caused by a fingernail, though it later was concluded to probably have been caused by a pen. The students calmly met thereafter and an apology was forthcoming from the assailant, who apparently was the victim’s friend. There was nothing at the time that required police intervention or portended of the tragic events to come.”

According to documents filed in Iowa District Court for Jefferson County, seven stitches were required to close Killian’s wound.

“It is not the university’s policy to file criminal charges against its own students,” Pearson wrote in the same statement. “It deals with such matters under its internal disciplinary procedures, which it was doing in this case. The victim of an alleged crime, of course, is always free to press such charges.”

The section of the school’s Web site dealing with public safety includes the statement, “Campus Safety promptly reports all criminal actions to the appropriate state, local or federal authorities for assistance and/or prosecution.” It also says criminal activities on campus should be reported to campus security and to the Fairfield Police Department.

William Goldstein, legal counsel for M.U.M., said the university’s actions and Wednesday’s description of school policy were consistent with the statements made on the Web site.

“There are lots of criminal activities that can occur on campus, whether they are perpetrated by students or by others,” he said. “That’s different from filing criminal charges against our own students.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Fairfield Ledger, USA
Mar. 4, 2004
Erik Gable
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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday March 5, 2004.
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