Access In Brief

Student newspaper wins fight for incident report

OKLAHOMA — After two years and a lengthy court battle, the Daily O’Collegian, the student newspaper at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, obtained an incident report on a recent graduate who is now an NFL running back.

The school had refused to release records relating to a 2003 incident involving former college football star Vernand Morency. Morency, who now plays for the Houston Texans, was accused of rape, but school investigators could not substantiate the claim.

A court ordered the school to release the records in January. Morency appealed, but filed a motion to dismiss on Aug. 29, thereby releasing the documents to the newspaper. The paper ran a story on the records Aug. 31.

“It was a victory for collegiate journalism and something I’m proud of being a part of, if only on the fringes,” said former Daily O’Collegian Editor in Chief Jared Janes.

Police confiscate two cameras at mall protest

MICHIGAN — Two photographers assigned to cover a protest Nov. 3 outside of a local Victoria’s Secret in Meridian Township were given a choice by local police officers: delete the photos they had taken of the protest or follow police officers back to the police station.

Student photographers Jill Woodbeck and Merissa Ferguson chose the latter option, following the officers back to the station. After the officers consulted with superiors, the cameras were released with the pictures fully intact, according an Associated Press article.

The pictures were of three students protesting the use of non-recycled paper in Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs, said Central Michigan Life Editor in Chief Chad Livengood. Woodbeck and Ferguson were covering the event for the Central Michigan University student newspaper.

“It was not our best police work,” Meridian Township Police Chief David Hall told The Associated Press.

Livengood said he believes the incident infringed upon a journalist’s right to report on the news.

“At the end of the day, government can’t step on our toes and force us to self-censor ourselves because it thinks a corporation doesn’t like what we’re doing,” he said.

Newspaper files lawsuit to gain access to murder records of two students

GEORGIA — A local newspaper filed a lawsuit against the local police on Sept. 9 in Clarke County Superior Court under the Georgia Open Records Act to gain access to information on the murders of two University of Georgia students.

Athens Banner-Herald reporters want to investigate the pair of unsolved murders using police files, but their efforts have encountered resistance from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

“We disagree with the police department on their definition of ongoing investigation,” Banner-Herald executive editor Jason Winders told the Red & Black, the student newspaper at the University of Georgia.

Sandi Turner, a spokeswoman for the county speaking on behalf of the police department, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Campus police officer seizes student’s film

ILLINOIS — Southern Illinois University at Carbondale officials denied a Freedom of Information Act request from a student whose film was seized after photographing an arrest in October.

Matthew Bowie, a junior photojournalism major, requested a copy of the incident report from campus police after an officer demanded that he turn over film from his camera on Sept. 14.

The request was denied because of an ongoing investigation, Bowie said.

Bowie said he was riding his bicycle on campus when he saw a campus police officer making an arrest. He stopped and took photographs of the incident. The police officer then demanded his film, threatening him with arrest and school suspension if he refused to comply.

The officer visited Bowie that night, telling him he was an undercover officer and did not want to see his face on the Internet. The officer also told Bowie he could pick up his film the next morning, Bowie said.

Bowie said he wrote a letter to school officials to ask for an official apology, but as of November he had not received one.

“The only thing I ever wanted from this investigation was an apology,” Bowie said. “There was wrong done here and someone should take responsibility.”

Southern Illinois spokeswoman Susan Davis told The Illinoisian she was not aware of a similar incident at the school.

“It’s certainly not been a practice on this campus to interfere with the freedom of the press,” Davis said.

Time and place of interviews should be public, attorney general says

NORTH CAROLINA — University officials are not required to hold open meetings to interview candidates for president under state open government laws, but they must notify the public of the place and time of those meetings, Attorney General Roy Miller told schools in an advisory legal opinion released in October, according to a local paper.

“You can have the whole thing in closed session, but the public is entitled to know when and where the meeting is,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill government professor David Lawrence told The News & Observer.

Leslie Winner, general counsel for the university, told The Associated Press she followed old advice from the attorney general’s office when allowing the committee to keep the time and place of meetings private during the university system’s recent search for a new president.

University retracts policy restricting student speech

INDIANA — Tri-State University officials revoked a school policy asking students to contact marketing officials before granting media interviews on Oct. 31 after criticism from students and free expression advocates.

School spokesman Patrick Johansen said the university, located in Angola, Ind., retracted the policy because officials are in the process of revising it and the revisions are “taking longer than expected.”

School officials sent an e-mail to students and employees on Oct. 14 asking them not to answer reporters’ questions without explicit permission from the school’s Department of Brand & Integrated Marketing.

Because the school is a private university, it does not have the same constitutional limitations in censoring students that apply to public institutions.

But such policies could have “a chilling effect” on students wanting to discuss crime on campus, said Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security on Campus, a non-profit organization dedicated to campus crime awareness.