Campus Free Speech

College Title IX Official Orders Student Newspaper To Turn Over Unpublished Videos

Administrator at California's Southwestern College tried to use government transparency law on journalists.

|

Journalists often use public records laws to compel public agencies to hand over information. But in California, a public community college is trying to use the records law to obtain information from student journalists.

On May 23, Gloria Chavez, Southwestern College's Title IX director, instructed The Sun—the campus student newspaper—to surrender an unpublished video of a May 2 student government meeting.

The meeting in question was tense, according to The Sun's reporting. The Associated Student Organization has two political parties: "Team Elite," which is comprised of black students, and "Team Green," which is comprised of Latinx students. They do not get along; in fact, members of Team Elite had allegedly threatened in an Instagram post to "chop the heads off of the euro-centrist white supremacist mexicans of the campus." Black students claim the post was fake, and engineered by Team Green to rally their supporters. University President Kindred Murillo ultimately decided to cancel the election.

Two weeks later, Chavez asked The Sun's faculty advisor to send her video footage allegedly recorded by Sun reporters.

The advisor, David Washburn, refused to do so. "I've been informed by an attorney specializing in open records law that these records are exempt from disclosure under California Government Code section 6254(k)," he wrote in a letter.

Not to be deterred, Chavez submitted a second request, this time arguing that The Sun was part of the college, and thus a government agency obligated to comply with the state's public records law.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education strongly disagrees.

"Many organizations receive government support of some sort, whether through funding, tax credits, or other benefits, but that doesn't make them government actors," Adam Steinbaugh, an attorney at FIRE, told Reason. "Student journalists are journalists, and their outlets are supposed to serve as a check on—not an agent of—the college's administration."

In a letter to Chavez, Steinbaugh argued that The Sun is a separate entity from the college.

"Just as not every student is a state actor by virtue of being granted admission to a public college, not every entity within a college's community is a state agency subject," he wrote.

Chavez did not respond to a request for comment. My guess is that she thinks her job—investigating and preventing discrimination and harassment—obligates her to seek this potential evidence of students behaving badly. But being a Title IX official is not a trump card, and student journalists should generally be free from administrative imposition.

NEXT: Utah Karaoke and Ax-Throwing Bars Are Using Pool Tables To Circumvent Stupid Liquor Laws

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This is interesting. So it seems like the Title IX director wanted the video to open an investigation?

    This is actually getting my brain going. So they record video of this meeting, and then they wanted to report on the meeting without publishing the video. This essentially game them room to editorialize about what happening in the meeting.

    So under that circumstance, I wonder, does the video solely belong to the journalists in this case? If one or the other of the sides felt they were being misrepresented and wanted the video published in order to provide full context for what happened, do they have grounds to appeal for the release of that video? Or did their consent to be videotaped essentially give The Sun license to do whatever they wanted with it?

    1. My best guess: If there was a libel suit, then the raw video would be turned over to the plaintiff during discovery. As to airing the video for the public, I don’t know, but the Volokh Conspiracy has lots of posts on access to court records, which is what the video would be during the course of the litigation.

      1. If one or the other groups wanted the video for a civil or criminal trial, they would subpoena it.

    2. Although I can see where the infant journalists are legally in the right position, I’m perplexed as to why they’d refuse to share the video. Did it show unacceptable behavior by parties whom the Sun supports? Or was it just that the Title IX directory demanded the video in a high-handed you’ll-do-as-I-say manner rather than politely requesting it, which prompted the editors to nail their flag to the mast? It certainly doesn’t seem as though sharing a copy of the video would compromise a confidential source, or impair the paper’s ability to report on the issue.

      1. I’m guessing the Title IX director wanted to slap down with the hand of authoritarianism and punish people for things said during the meeting, or at least open an investigation based on things said. In this case, the paper’s faculty sponsor refused to stretch out in front of the jack-booted heel.

        It’s the right call unless the paper is hiding the fact that they’ve slandered one side or the other.

      2. My theory is for the same reason journalists don’t want to reveal their anonymous sources (covered by the 1st Amendment btw) when reporting leaks. Once you betray one of your sources, future would be “leakers” won’t trust that you won’t betray them as well.

        There was probably some agreement among the people being filmed that the videos would not be released publicly, which the paper wants to upkeep its reputation that they won’t betray their sources.

    3. Unless that student group arranged for the school newspaper to film the meeting for them, the video belongs to the organization that recorded it.

      So even if the others wanted to use it, its not theirs to use without permission.

      So under that circumstance, I wonder, does the video solely belong to the journalists in this case?

      Well, like in these exact circumstances. If you were there and shot video, that video would belong to you – even if you intended to write about the meeting and not use that video.

  2. members of Team Elite had allegedly threatened in an Instagram post to “chop the heads off of the euro-centrist white supremacist mexicans of the campus.”

    This is why identity politics can’t work.

    1. Not to mention it doesn’t even make sense.

      1. It makes no sense so aggressively it’s almost admirable.

        1. Not if you follow the 1% rule and think Spanish people are white. But then you’d also be excluding some of the black students in your group since they aren’t all pure African. But yeah racism is stupid.

          1. The one drop rule is just an excuse. An excuse used by both Apartheid and by modern proggy Identitarians.

            It’s the narrative of the moment man, whatever excuse to use in the narrative of the moment.

      2. Feature, not a bug.

    2. I have to say, this sentence makes the actions of the inspector much more understandable. If there are threats of violence on campus, I can definitely understand the desire to nip this in the bud before someone gets hurt.

  3. Everyone involved sounds just awful. Can we set up a giant thunderdome event and give them all pointed sticks? When the winners emerge, lavish them with punch and pie. Please note the punch might taste a bit like bitter almonds, so just let the victors drink it.

    Problem solved.

    1. Can’t we just get beyond Thunderdome?

    2. Two men enter, one questioning pansexual otherkin MtF leaves…

  4. Be interesting to see if the college uses the in loco parentis argument I’ve seen them use before in cases where students assert their autonomy – you know, the exact opposite of the argument that Oberlin used to claim that they were in no way responsible for the actions of their students. Is the college going to claim that they are responsible for the actions of their students?

    I could see the argument that as long as the student newspaper is operating under the aegis of the college, the college has some authority/responsibility as owner/publisher/editor-in-chief. Much the same as a reporter’s boss walking into their office and demanding to see the notes they took on an interview, it’s an interesting question as to whether those are the reporter’s notes or the newspaper’s notes.

  5. What a bunch of fucking children.

    1. I don’t think any of them get laid much, which may be the problem.

  6. What’s with Latinx all of the sudden? Why didn’t they go with Hispano or Latinics?
    Is it pronounced la-tinks? Was there a massive conversion to Islam ala MalcolmX?
    Isn’t African American due for an overhaul shortly? It’s usually changed once a decade and this has been around a bit longer than that.

    1. It’s a term the Progressives/SJW’s have been pushing for a few years now (though I assume you knew that).
      Out of curiosity, why were neither of these racist factions described as racist? Put a majority white or male group in a similar circumstance and they would have been explicitly labeled some sort of bigot.
      I applaud the guy for not turning over video. Unless the video was recorded for university purposes or using university materials she has no right to it. Let her go through the legal system to obtain it if she feels she has a right.

      1. So, is it an attempt to be deliberately specific about race and deliberately vague about gender?

        1. yes
          Gender neutral usage seems to be becoming more of a thing in gendered languages. Which is even more awkward and unnatural than it is in English.

          1. Well, let’s be clear – its not becoming a thing *in those languages*. Its becoming a thing among the young people in America from the cultural groups that speak those languages.

            1. I would like a glass of aqux or a cervezx.

              1. I have a puppyx,

          2. If they’re US Citizens, having grown up their entire lives in the US, went to US colleges where “woke culture” is a thing; but happen to also speak Spanish because their parents speak it, “Latinx” sounds like something they would invent.

            I guess you could say they speak “Woke Spanglish”.

      2. Only recently I as well noticed for the first time Latinx being used. I didn’t know it was a thing, and I can’t imagine how it’s supposed to differentiate from Latino/Latina or HIspanic.

        1. Just say %$^&, that should avoid all problems.

          1. I think Clint has it right in the Mule.

        2. 1. Because its ‘gender neutral’.

          2. ‘Hispanic’ includes Europeans from Spain and Portugal. ‘Latinx’ is specifically Latin American.

          1. Ah. Yeah, one of the downsides to being a “linguistic/cultural” group instead of a blessedly racial group was having to include those damn European Spanish people. Now they just have to find a way to eliminate all the white Latinks, because of their race. Because they’re racist, I guess…

    2. Is it pronounced la-tinks?

      “Lateen-zzz,” with an emphasis on the “z,” almost like it’s its own syllable (replacing the vowel).

    3. Because, despite it being a core feature of the language they claim to speak and the culture they claim to be protecting, the ‘masculine’ suffix being the standard suffix used when dealing with mixed sex groups is ‘patriarchal’.

      Oh, and it marginalizes marginalized groups, etc.

      1. Something something transgender . . . .

      2. How the hell do those people get margarine all over them??

    4. I like Latnics.

      Much better than Latnos.

      A Latnic and a Latno were walking down the street together…….

    5. Meh… I am not particularly a huge fan of the SJW movement, nor “woke culture” in general, but the term “Latinx” sounds pretty reasonable to me. Language changes over time, its not a big deal.

    6. It’s the term demanded by Affluent White Progressives SJW Monolinguists of English. People who don’t understand that gender in Spanish is NOT the same thing as gender in a LGBTQFCK meetup. They think they’re speaking truth to power by imposing a grammar on a culture of color.

  7. Why do they even need the video.

    Just consult the intersectionality chart and you’ll find out which group in the conflict is the default oppressor and thus automatically in the wrong regardless of any facts.

  8. If the “higher education” industry/culture hadn’t turned itself into such a joke, I might’ve been tempted to question the labeling of ‘elite’ adopted by an activist organization at a community college…

  9. the euro-centrist white supremacist mexicans

    And with this, I’ve seen it all.

  10. These are really nice types of earrings. I have some flower earrings with CZs in them, but they are pretty much flat to the ear lobe. These are great – they are 3D and stand out from the lobe like a real flower would. They’re a good size too – not too big or too small.

    1. But are the earrings compatible with Latinx communities?

  11. Way back in my college days many years ago, I briefly worked for my university’s student paper. When joining and filling out all the paperwork; technically I was considered the university’s employee and on their payroll; even though the paper was fairly critical of the university admins, go figure. So I take it if some Title IX officer (I don’t even know if my old uni even had those, or does now) wanted to get the information, theoretically they could access it. Hell, even a Free of Information request might get it since it was a public university.

    I don’t know what the exact setup of the student paper in this scenario is. If they’re not employees of the university, but get some sort of subsidy (student government bills, ability to use their buildings for free/super cheap, etc) that sounds like a legal gray area. Also, I wonder if Title IX officers have the power to expel students for not complying with their requests, even if they don’t have the legal right to get their hands on video by force. Hmmm, a lot of legal gray area.

    1. “Hmmm, a lot of legal grey area.”

      If you’ve ever seen the winning team’s players making snow angels in the confetti at the Super Bowl, then you know how lawyers feel about “legal grey area.”

  12. “Latinx”

    No.

    The appropriate term is Latino, provided there is at least one male in the group to which you are referring. The Spanish language has not yet changed because of the whining of liberals.

    Don’t spread bullshit.

  13. Oh fuck. The insanity has hit community colleges. I thought those were for students just out of high school, or adults returning to get an education, and generally a safe haven from the Identitarian circle jerk of affluent Ivy League schools.

    Next up: DeVry and ITT install safe rooms with playdough and puppy dogs.

  14. Being that journalism is about shining light on issues. I’m not sure why they would not want to share the video with everyone.

    Having said that, no the school cannot use an FOIA request.

Please to post comments