Lies Your College Will Tell You

Naturally, I was drawn to this session because of the title – it really interested me! And apparently a lot of people, considering there were massive amounts of people sitting on the floor and standing in the back.

While it says there are six lies that we are told as journalists by our college or university, we only got to about five because of the discussion that took place. The session was given by Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). He started off by telling us that if we ever had any trouble or questions about legality of something, to use the attorney hotline (I’ll keep that on the backburner).

You know, he talked about a lot of things that colleges tell us that, apparently, aren’t wrong. Some of them don’t apply heavily to my work particularly because Elon is a private institution, but most of them did. Here is a taste of a few of them:

1. You can’t say that about me – it’s libelous 

He emphasized the fact that very few things are legally libelous and that the majority of the time that someone reports this, it’s just because whatever was published was “negative” or “hurtful.” This is something to look out for, but is also something that gives us more freedom as journalists. Just print the truth, people (based in fact) and you’re pretty much set to go.

2. We can’t give you those police reports, they’re an education record

FALSE. Educational records are confidential, yes. But don’t be fooled into thinking that police records are educational records, and don’t let anyone make you think that. The police must give you records if they are public police records – not educational records. Things are different in an open investigation and only some information can be revealed, but that’s a different story.

Another important piece of information that I admittedly didn’t know a lot about the Clery Act. This act says that, no matter if you are at a public or private institution, you are able to go to a police department and ask for a list of crimes that happened in the past 48 hours, for example. The police is required to give you that information. This is something that students can (and should) take advantage of, and is something that could be beneficial to college campuses everywhere.

There a many other things that we talked about in this session and that I will definitely bring back to The Pendulum staff, but these two were items that I thought we could make sure to think about and asses when making decisions now. It’s good to ask questions as a student, and it’s good to learn about what rights we really do have.

– Kate Riley


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