Students writing for the WKU newspaper see major public information win

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Western Kentucky University has finally released documents related to the Title IX investigation that has been going on for years.

The university turned over papers to the student run College Heights Herald, but large portions were blacked out.

The investigation centered around student complaints of sexual misconduct from members of the faculty.

The student newspaper’s request, and the unwillingness of the university to turn over documents, was the subject of a lawsuit.

At one point, Governor Andy Beshear, who served as the state attorney general, and the Kentucky state supreme court, said these kinds of records should be released to the public.

While the records failed to shed much new light on the allegations, the fact the school turned over the documents is considered a major public information win.

The credit goes to the student run newspaper that has fought for access since to 2016.

Students are in charge of the publications for the College Heights Herald, meaning there is constant turnover for workers as they graduate.

This investigation into the sexual misconduct files against employees of the school shows dedication from student journalists.

The students chose to stick with this story, all on their own, through a law suit, according to Chuck Clark, the director of student publications at WKU.

“Not a single student on staff now was here when this all started in November 2016 or when it became a lawsuit in February 2017, but they’ve all realized the importance of what’s going on here this is a very important case,” said Clark.

Debra Murray, the digital news editor for the College Height Herald, says sticking with the story that her predecessors began is important to her.

“A lot of the people who experience the misconduct were people who were of my same age or the same age group of me and my friends so it was some thing where this potentially could happen to somebody I know and that’s really heartbreaking so I think just learning about these policies and being able to sit down and go through them and explain them to other people so they know what kind of protections they have if anything like this were ever to happen to them,” said Murray.

Lily Burris, the editor and chief at the paper says she believed getting ahold of the information is a way to hold the school accountable and is proud of everything she had learned about journalism from the school and the WKU Herald.

“What they’re teaching in the school media and what we’re teaching over here in the Herald works we’re producing these pieces and people are taking notice and we’re hoping that they have impact that means that the teaching that they’re doing is working and that means that journalism and journalism degree still matter whether it’s broadcasting whether to print whether it’s photo because you can’t just wait for the entities that you’re reporting on to take care of themselves and hold themselves accountable,” said Burris.

Burris says you can’t care about something like this and not pass it on. The story isn’t about who publishes it, but instead about accountability.

“You can’t care about something like this and not be willing to spend the time in teaching and pass it on you can’t just do this and hold onto it and hope it gets done with you because that’s not what matters what matters is that you’re holding this university accountable for giving these documents to you to keep being themselves to title IX standards to making sure they’re not letting things slide then maybe they should be letting things slide,” said Burris.

Because much of the papers were redacted, the Herald still feels the information owed to the public has not been given and will continue with legal action to attempt to receive the complete information from the school.