Administrators lock door to campus publication’s office in dispute over confidential files

OREGON — Portland State University officials alloweda campus publication it locked out of its office Feb. 23 backin after the editor agreed to turn over a box of confidentialfiles that had mysteriously landed in front of the door to thepublication’s office.

The box of files, which was originally left outside of theRearguard office with an anonymous note saying it was foundin the catering kitchen of a campus building, contained sensitiveuniversity records, according to Dimitrius Desyllas, editor ofThe Rearguard, an alternative student publication. Anothernote on the box said the files were confidential and were from1995.

Desyllas said university officials padlocked the door to thepaper’s office after discovering the paper had decided to pursuean investigative story involving the confidential university files.

Desyllas said campus police followed him around campus foralmost two hours, threatened to arrest him and threatened to obtaina search warrant if he did not give them the files, which Desyllassaid had been labeled "to be destroyed." Desyllas refusedto comment further on what the files contained.

Rod Diamond, assistant to PSU’s president, said he, the studentgovernment president and a campus police officer went to talkto Desyllas after they received a note from him indicating hehad the files. Diamond said there was no interrogation and saidhe talked to Desyllas for no more than forty minutes.

According to Diamond, the university "has not been ableto track where that box was between when it was closed" in1995 and when it was left outside the Rearguard office.

Boxes containing similar records are usually stored in a securedpart of the library, Diamond said. The box in question is currentlyin the hands of the dean of students.

Desyllas said he was allowed back into the office only aftergiving Diamond the box of files, but Diamond said Desyllas wasallowed back into the office to make a phone call. Desyllas hadtried to contact the Rearguard adviser while he was questioned,but the adviser was out of town.

The university "never got a search warrant; I don’t thinkthey could," Desyllas said. "They claimed [the closing]was for security reasons."

Both state and federal law prohibit shutting down media workplacesand confiscating papers or other information obtained as partof newsgathering.

Desyllas said he has already asked the president of the universityfor a written apology and promise that this will not happen again.

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