This past week, two Gatepost editors, the Editor-in-Chief and an Arts and Features Editor, were called into the Campus Police station to be questioned about their editorial choices concerning the news article and a personal opinion piece written about two students’ controversial Halloween costumes in the Nov. 7 edition.
Not only is this highly inappropriate, but it threatens these editors’ first amendment rights to report the facts and publicize their opinions.
Attorney Advocate from the Student Press Law Center Adam Goldstein said that unless the newspaper is being investigated for a criminal action, it is not appropriate for a police station to call editors in for questioning.
Asking about editorial choices certainly could be interpreted as an attempt to control or manipulate content. Asking why we did or did not include particular information in the news article, and how that might have affected the tone of the piece, along with interrogating the intent of an opinion piece, are highly inappropriate actions which trained law enforcement officers should know are unacceptable.
We expect that our Campus Police officers will do their jobs without hindering our job or encroaching on our constitutional rights.
This past week, some community members have criticized our choice to write a news article about the two students who wore the Halloween costumes. It is within their rights to voice those opinions and even write opinion pieces themselves if they disagree with the content that we publish. We welcome this, in fact.
The Gatepost, like any newspaper, should be held accountable by those in the community for our editorial choices and what we decide to publish. Our words and work have a direct effect on the community, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.
In fact, that is exactly why we can’t shy away from the stories which might make people upset. It is our job to investigate stories that are impactful to the community and report them factually and ethically, which, once published, can often begin the process of resolution, even if the discussion we generate temporarily creates unrest within the community.
Public criticism of our choices, however, is not the same as school officials, who are trained and sworn officers of the law, calling student journalists down to the police station to question editorial decisions that are by no means within Campus Police’s authority to control.
President F. Javier Cevallos said, “It is certainly inappropriate for an officer to ask about the content of the newspaper.” He added, “Freedom of expression is one of the things that we cherish in this nation more than anything else.”
He speculated that this may have been a mistake made by an officer who didn’t know that this was not appropriate behavior.
We at The Gatepost appreciate Cevallos’ sentiments about protecting first amendment rights, not only for our publication, but for all students and community members. But we question the reason given for why these actions have taken place. These are basic rights that law enforcement officers should recognize and respect.
We call upon administrators and the community at large to remain vigilant in acknowledging when first amendment rights are violated, enforcing the laws that protect these rights and holding those who violate them accountable for their actions.