LSU student threatened with disciplinary action for talking to student newspaper

Administrators at Louisiana State University warned a studentunder disciplinary investigation that he could face additional charges after hediscussed details of a student hearing with the campus newspaper last month,according to an article in The Daily Reveille.

LSU student PatrickEsfeller approached The Daily Reveille in the midst of a student judicialinvestigation he believed was unfairly targeting him, said Daily ReveilleEditor in Chief Jeff Jeffrey. The newspaper began its own investigation into thecase, which was based on an accusation that Esfeller harassed his ex-girlfriend,a student, with repeated telephone calls.

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SPLCView: This is a truly disturbing case. For years, we have argued against thesecrecy and lack of accountability that surrounds campus court proceedings onmost of our country’s colleges and universities. Campus judicial officials aretaking on more and more non-academic cases that would normally be heard in apublic courtroom and doling out their own system of justice with limited or nopublic oversight. In the few cases where the public has been able to peek insidea campus judicial system, the findings have, at times, been shocking. However, the secret system persists mainly because of the argument of schoolofficials (with the support of the U.S. Department of Education) that allowingthe public to observe what happens during a campus court hearing would invadethe privacy rights of the students brought before it. Here, LSU officials haveturned that rationale on its head. The student whose privacy rights wouldsupposedly be violated feels that the campus court system is treating himunfairly and he has asked for some public oversight and accountability. Ratherthan opening the doors and inviting the public in, the university has threatenedto punish the student. Here, of course, the school now says that it’s not theaccused student’s privacy rights, but the alleged victim’s and witnesses’privacy rights that are at stake. While we would argue that the right of theaccused to a fair and open hearing should normally prevail (as it does in ourregular justice system), there are certainly steps that could be taken tominimize the exposure of other students. Punishing the accused simply because hewants less privacy, not more, and wants the school to be held accountable forits actions is an extreme and dangerous abuse of power.