March 11, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Veiled Threats

In an attempt to follow up on the student who went missing from JCCC, the campus newspaper sent a message to one of the college's electronic mail server, JCCClist.

The message sent to by Matt Galloway, news editor of The Campus Ledger, asked those who knew the student to offer insight on the day in question.

Editor's Note: The following appeared on the JCCClist and are not private e-mail conversations.
Hey everyone,

We're doing a follow up story on the details of the case and performance of the college during the missing student situation on Feb. 14, as reported in Issue 10.

For those of you who don't know, Rachel Wooldridge, a student at the college, disappeared and was later found in Lawrence after the OPPD and DPS scoped the college, even local news put it as the lead in some of their telecasts.

YOU CAN HELP US if you ever had her in one of your classes, or if you saw anything of note on the 14th that might be worthy of printing. We appreciate any help!

If you had her in a class before or if you know her personally and would like to comment WITH ANY PERSPECTIVE, just reply to this email and let me know! But I am on a deadline and I will need to talk to you about it soon.

Thank you very much,

Matt Galloway
News Editor

The Campus Ledger
An hour later Paul Kyles, dean of Student Services sent the following message:
Dear JCCC,

I would highly recommend that no one respond to Matthew's request for information regarding Rachel.

This is a warning for your protection related to privacy issues.
I would hate for anyone to have an unnecessary encounter with the Federal Gov.

Thank You

Paul Kyle
Dean of Student Services.
To which my reply was:
I would recommend that the Dean of Student Services refrain from warning anyone who wishes to cooperate with the student press that he or she may be subject to investigation.

Mr. Kyle has no idea what kind of information might be exchanged. Perhaps he simply does not trust employees of the college to know what they can and cannot discuss or that they are not intelligent enough to understand college policy.

I understand it is Mr. Kyle's job to help ensure the privacy of student information as it pertains to academics. But I read nothing in the original request for information that asked for a student's medical records or grades.

Mr. Kyle has no authority to make such statements or threats. If he continues he might be the one under investigation.

Miguel M. Morales
former Ledger staffer (yeah, that one)
This prompted a response from a JCCC employee:

Mr. Morales,

Sir you are a bully and an ASS. It is none of your or my business what happened to this young lady. If the Overland Park Police and JCCC Public Safety are satisfied with the outcome then the rest of us should be satisfied.

Threatening members of the college with investigation is intolerable. I hope you did not learn that type of journalism at JCCC.
I replied:
When it comes to defending students, you're right, I am a bully and an ASS -- and I always will be.

The bottom line is that the young lady in question could have been in serious danger. Yet, no one wants to know how and why it happened or why we use a text messaging service that cannot be trusted to deliver texts during emergencies.

In reality, we should be thanking that young lady who went missing. She helped exposed the flaws in our system. But if we choose to ignore the situation and bury our heads in the sand, the next missing student we find will floating in a lake.

And let's not forget it was an administrator who used the veiled threat of an investigation against any employee who might choose to cooperate with the student newspaper in answering these questions.

After all this campus community has been through, it saddens me to realize there are people here who still don't get it ...

ut I appreciate those who do.
The news editor replied to the dean:
Dear Mr. Kyle,

I already have all of the information needed about the situation as given to me by the Overland Park Police Department. It is public record sir, and asking a professor about a former student is not, the last time I checked, a federal crime.

I was HOPING to speak with a professor who might have been worried that one of his/her former students was missing, not obtain personal records regarding anyone. Nowhere in the informal request did I ever ask for any personal information regarding the missing student or any other records that would be not be obtainable to me as a member of the college's press.

You likely didn't consider that the investigation was closed and the Overland Park Police Department was more than willing to discuss the matter with us. This is not hidden information, sir, it is public record that anyone with a fax machine and a phone can obtain.

For those of you that believe this was an unfair subject to address, your point is taken and I have noted your thoughts. However, since the incident, numerous students have inquired as WHAT THIS situation was, since it took so much time and resources from the college. It was determined that a follow up would be important, and this was just an avenue to find as many sources as possible to make sure the story comes out correctly.

Thank you.