UNC Daily Tar Heel Proudly Destroys Students’ Lives

The children running the Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sued the school under the state public records law for the identities of students “found responsible” for sexual misconduct under Title IX. Its reason, unsurprisingly, was “transparency.” Not transparency for its own sake, but for the “survivors.

When we asked the University for these records in September, I wrote a column about why we wanted to take on this fight. All those reasons are still true.

But this isn’t an ordinary story, or even an ordinary lawsuit.

As an editor, I believe in open records and celebrate the fact that The Daily Tar Heel is independent and therefore capable of suing UNC. As a woman, well — try to find one of us who hasn’t been groped, catcalled or harassed. Try to navigate a college dance floor when it is routinely assumed you do not have the privilege to control who touches you. Try to find a woman whose life would not be markedly improved by even — as Andrea Dworkin wrote — a 24-hour truce in which there is no rape.

We are committing money and time to this lawsuit, and we’ve already made sexual assault a focus of our investigative reporting. We will never give up on this issue because we don’t leave it behind when we leave work.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled that in the interplay between North Carolina’s public records law and federal law, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the former prevailed and the latter, well, did not.

In light of its construction of FERPA and this federal law’s perceived concomitant relationship with Title IX as embodied in 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), et seq, UNC-CH assumes the posture as to the release of the student disciplinary records which are the focus of this legal controversy, that “the University has exercised its discretion and has declined to disclose this information because the University has determined that the release of this information would lead to the identification of victims, jeopardize the safety of the University’s students, violate student privacy, and undermine the University’s efforts to comply with Title IX.”

Notably, the argument for student privacy wasn’t based on the identities of the convicted male students* put through the ringer of an inquisition designed to deprive them of due process, preclude any defense and have responsibility decided by the less than partial factfinders, not that the DTH demonstrated any concern for the males students accused.

And as soon as disclosure was made, the student newspaper put the name in print to assure that the former student, found “responsible” in its kangaroo court, would be named and tainted in perpetuity.

Individuals found responsible of sexual assault or sexual violence include Jalek Felton, former UNC basketball player.

There it is. And the bell once rung cannot be unrung.

UNC had previously announced that Felton had been suspended from the University in the spring of 2018, before his attorney Kerry Sutton said on Twitter that Felton was withdrawing from the University.

Felton was found responsible of sexual violence or sexual assault and was sanctioned with expulsion from the UNC System, order of No Contact and a ban from the University’s campus for four years.

Sutton said that Felton withdrew from the University before he was expelled. Sutton declined to comment on whether or not Jalek was informed of his ban from the University’s campus, but spoke with him earlier today to inform him of the courts’ decision to release the documents.

Well, so much for one student. It’s not as if anyone will know what he was accused of, whether it happened, whether he did it, and whether he was given due process and a fair opportunity to defend. Was he guilty? Was it really “sexual violence or sexual assault,” or was it regret? None of this matters anymore, for whoever searches the name will find the conclusion.

The passionate students running the UNC Daily Tar Heel have won a glorious victory by outing the male students who were denied due process and “found responsible” in an absurdly unfair and irresponsible inquisition, all in the name of transparency for “survivors.” They must be so very proud of themselves for destroying the lives of male students.

*FERPA provides an exception, to be exercised in the discretion of the educational institution, to release information about student discipline. As FERPA didn’t preclude its release, and as NC public records law otherwise mandated its release, the exception resulted in state law prevailing over federal law as to the male students’ identities.

12 thoughts on “UNC Daily Tar Heel Proudly Destroys Students’ Lives

  1. Guitardave

    What will prove to be our big mistake?
    Short sighted arrogance all for what sake?
    Our families to ashes, our ambition to dust
    Our progeny in silence thinking “what about us?”

  2. Erik H

    What a horrific outcome for the student involved.

    One can hope that the legislature would stop this, but I doubt it. Rather, I expect them to aim for even more gag orders, in which it will now be OK to publicize the name of the “guilty” student, but will somehow impose even more punishment under Title 9 or elsewhere, if anyone (the “guilty” student or otherwise) deigns to reveal the name of the accuser.

    1. SHG Post author

      Once they’ve been expelled, there isn’t much more the college can do to them. It will be up to the outraged on social media to take up arms against them and by opposing, to end them.

  3. LY

    Just curious, does the Tar Heel use any university resources? Buildings, equipment, etc? If they do, they may want to think a little bit about biting the hand that feeds them.

  4. Bryan Burroughs

    I wonder if this ups the ante on the Title IX processes in place on campuses to be more fair. Now that public humiliation is in the mix, the university can be shown to be having even more impact on students’ lives.

    1. SHG Post author

      In a better world, people would appreciate the ever more severe ramifications for male accuseds coming out of Title IX sex tribunals. Is this a better world?

    2. Bryan Burroughs

      Of course it’s not a better world. If it were, there would be no need to go to court to say “look, you’ve got to at least pretend to listen to the poor bastard before you expell him.” With this, though, it might give a decent lawyer in front of a judge one more arrow in his quiver for why schools can’t just shrug off basic fairness.

  5. Rengit

    If this trend continues, of activists or otherwise aggrieved parties using public records to “out” people to potential employers and/or educational institutions, then the purpose of the “ban the box” campaign (whatever you think of its merits) will be defeated. Right now this sort of internet shaming is limited to sexual assault on campus, but what about when an anti-drug group starts tweeting drug convictions to employers? When a kid who got bullied in high school starts posting on Instagram to a college that one of their students criminally bullied him as an 18 year-old? Ban-the-box only prohibits companies from conducting a search, it doesn’t prohibit them from receiving the info on a silver platter.

    1. SHG Post author

      Unlike #MeToo shaming, this quasi-criminal “procedure” carries the imprimatur of an official determination, making it more serious and worse than just random screamers.

  6. Gray Brendle

    There many things that we can the Obama era DoJ for; expanding focus on Title IX is undoubtedly one of them. I guess that it’s not enough that men comprise only 40% of University students. Oh, for the days when crimes were crimes, and suspected criminals were made to account without passion or prejudice.

    None of this is to say that there are not sexual crimes committed in populations as large as universities, it’s just that local prosecutors are better equipped to handle these cases. I would venture that the odds of 7th-12th grade child being victimized by a teacher is higher than sexual assault on college campuses.

    1. SHG Post author

      This issue has been covered here in extreme depth for years. As fun as generic musing may be, we try to focus on the specific issue of the post.

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