A friend of McCormick senior Michael Szot launched an online petition Wednesday asking the University to allow Szot to return to school for the upcoming academic year following an alleged drunk driving accident that killed two passengers, including McCormick senior Mihirtej Boddupalli.
The petition, created by McCormick senior Nikhil Byanna, had more than 200 signatures by about 9 p.m. Wednesday evening.
McCormick senior Brad Winters said Szot told him that University administrators said he may not be able to return for the upcoming year because the NU community needs time to heal. A final decision has not been made, Winters said. The University was unable to comment on Szot on Wednesday.
“This accident led to the loss of a loved member of the Northwestern community, but that doesn’t mean it should lead to the loss of two,” the petition states. “While the Northwestern community is mourning the loss of Mihir, it does not want to see Mike’s right to an education taken away as punishment.”
Szot’s lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.
Winters and Byanna said Szot did not ask them to create the petition. Byanna said he plans to send the petition to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution on Thursday morning.
Szot was released on bond following the July 19 accident in Naperville, Illinois. The car crashed into several trees before landing in a water-filled quarry. Szot was able to swim to shore. The two passengers, Boddupalli and Indiana University senior Sajaad Syed, were both pronounced dead at a hospital.
At the time of the crash, Szot had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 and admitted to smoking marijuana prior to the accident, according to the office of the State’s Attorney of DuPage County. The legal limit is 0.08.
Szot pleaded not guilty to nine counts of aggravated driving under the influence last month. He will have a status hearing on Oct. 2 at a DuPage County court.
Several people, including Winters, have shared the petition on Facebook encouraging individuals to sign it.
“(The University is) under the belief that the grieving process that’s going on can be hindered by Mike returning to campus,” Winters told The Daily. “We want to make sure that we can show strongly that that’s not the case.”
The petition garnered multiple comments, emphasizing that Szot should be given a second chance and the opportunity to pursue his education.
“Mike was already punished once by losing a good friend,” Medill senior Quinn Murphy wrote. “No need to take away his right to education.”
Ally Mutnick contributed reporting.