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.