Dean of Students James Annarelli sent an email to our Editor-in-Chief Elaine Newbern Monday morning stating that President Donald Eastman requires we take down an article published in 2017.
Our policy states:
“While under the prior review of a designated faculty adviser for legal and ethical dilemmas, The Current will be free of censorship.”
The article in question covered the arrest of an individual in connection to an alleged sexual assault that happened on campus in November of 2017. According to an email sent by Campus Safety on Nov. 10, 2019, the individual is accusing the college of mishandling a Title IX case and sending Eckerd community members emails and direct messages at random in an attempt to tell his story.
In the email from Campus Safety, Eckerd officials said the college reached out to the individual.
Eastman, Annarelli and our editor-in-chief met on Nov. 11 after the initial email to take down the article was received. During the meeting, Annarelli and Eastman told us the individual sent online and email communications about his innocence and the college’s alleged mistakes to Eckerd community members.
Annarelli’s email said President Donald Eastman initiated a risk assessment report, which is standard procedure when concerning mass communications between a non-student and community members. The findings led him to tell The Current to remove the article.
The administration denied our request to view the risk assessment report during the meeting between Eastman, Annarelli and our editor-in-chief. During the meeting, Annarelli also said there had not been any explicit threats of violence.
The Current also offered to update the article at our discretion if court or police-authorized documents were provided by the involved parties, as is our policy and a common practice when responding to “unpublishing requests,” according to the Poynter Institute. But according to the email sent by Annarelli, updating the article would not be a sufficient response.
As of now, we have decided not to take down the article after a unanimous vote from The Current’s staff. All of its reported material is factual and accurate, and we believe that if we take down an article for reasons other than a credible, violent threat, it compromises our unbiased position as student journalists, jeopardizes our relationship with the student body and constitutes censorship.
We remain open to further conversation with the college administration if an imminent threat of violence arises. But if the assessment suggests the individual is a threat to Eckerd College and its community members, we feel the administration should focus on involving local authorities before asking the student newspaper to remove published information.