Newsroom rights violated in careless act of ‘concern’

Our editor sits, crying alone, hidden in the privacy of the newsroom on an almost empty Friday morning. 

It was Friday, March 22. Maggie Sandefur had a particularly harsh morning and was hoping for some peace and quiet away from the world. 

The door to the newsroom opens and she’s suddenly in the view of two uninvited guests: Gerald McCarty, dean of student services, and Richard Morin, security. 

“Sorry to interrupt,” McCarty said as he made a beeline toward one of two whiteboards, and Maggie wiped her tears away, now more shocked and confused than sad.

Mick Valentino

She waited a few minutes, silence eating away at her as they stared at crude, almost elementary drawings on the whiteboard. 

Finally, she spoke up, asking if there was an issue, and McCarty answered nonchalantly by saying they were just checking things out. After a few more minutes, both McCarty and Morin wheeled the whiteboard away with no other explanation. 

She immediately called our adviser, Matthew Bird-Meyer, and explained the situation. He had no knowledge of why McCarty and Morin decided to show up unannounced and take a whiteboard without warning. 

Bird-Meyer then chased the two down, and after a while, the board was brought back into the newsroom by McCarty. 

Only then did he explain to Maggie why he took the whiteboard: Morin, who was lurking in the newsroom at some point after hours, saw drawings on the board including phrases such as “slay,” “I’m dead inside” that was signed by who wrote it and “I’m going to perish.” Morin then went to McCarty with his “worries.” 

He was concerned about student safety, he explained to the student he walked in on, crying alone. 

Concerned enough to barge in and ignore the tears of frustration and exhaustion coming from a student who had purposely hid themselves away? 

The concern, if there was true concern at all, was mishandled and sloppy. 

If there was a true concern, a simple question to the crying student would’ve gone a long way. If there was a true concern, a conversation with Bird-Meyer, the man who works with these students with the supposed safety issues, would’ve been a reasonable action to take. To bypass the man who knows these students best is both unprofessional and offensive. 

But that’s if there was a true concern. 

There should have been a concern surrounding the way this was all handled. A concern about the invasion of privacy. A concern about the violation of the first amendment. 

I contacted two student press organizations, Student Press Law Center and Student Press Freedom Initiative, about this situation. 

“Newsrooms are constitutionally protected spaces and they need to respect that,” said Mike Hiestand, a media law attorney. 

Another attorney, Lindsie Rank, said that this act was violative of the First Amendment. 

Chief of Security Troy Cox, who I emailed to try and talk to about the whole situation, disagrees. 

“You can go ahead and put “no response” from me. Just so we are clear, there was no violation of anything. Thank you and have a great day,” he responded. 

A sassy and classy reply to an email looking for a professional answer.

The invasion left the newsroom on edge. Journalists are worried about writing on the board in fear that it would be taken again. 

Paranoia crept in almost immediately after and I don’t think it’s entirely gone yet. I know this situation could’ve been handled a million different ways and all with a better outcome than this. A bit of respect, communication and rationality could’ve changed everything. 

The lack of true concern for everyone involved was apparent, as well as offensive and disgusting. 

If you’re so concerned for the safety of the students, maybe show a little compassion and act like it.