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Sierra Dyson was checking her email when she saw this letter.It is just for Texas News Service, One of the student publications of Tarlton State University. Dyson was its top editor, so she started reading.

A lawyer representing the former Professor Tarlton requested that a series of articles published in 2018 be deleted. The lawyer’s client, Michael Landis, “is prepared to take any and all necessary legal actions to mitigate and reverse the damage caused by the article,” the lawyer wrote.

“These statements spread false allegations of sexual harassment of our clients,” the letter said.Although the university has investigated Landis and determined that he “has no Sexually harassed his accuser and did no Create a hostile educational environment where you deliberately hide this information in the last few paragraphs. “

The newspaper reported that several undergraduates filed complaints about Landis, an assistant professor of history, to the University’s Title IX office. When an investigation by the university found that although Landis did not sexually harass students or create a hostile environment, his behavior was “inappropriate” and an administrator suggested that he be fired. The newspaper continued to follow the matter. Landis left the university voluntarily.

Dyson thinks that everyone except her should read this letter. She took it to the chair of the communications research department in charge of the publication.

But Dyson is not too worried. In Texas, the statute of limitations for defamation is only one year, and these stories are three years old. She is sure that the university will not succumb to threat letters, but will stand up and carefully report an important topic written by a top student. After all, this is a professor, and the government has recommended that he be fired. She is convinced that managers will now adhere to the two core values ​​they often believe in students: leadership and integrity. Don’t they?

TonTalton State University’s news project has done hard reporting before.

In the mid-2000s, a new professor named Dan Malone pulled out Tarleton’s campus crime report—a report required by universities under the Clay Act—and showed them to the students in the class. Report. Malone of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting Dallas Morning News Police misconduct series, Know how to obtain documents from public agencies. He is teaching his students what is available.

When looking at the data, one of Malone’s students suspected that the university in Stephenville, Texas must have underreported crimes on campus. Under Ma Long’s guidance, she and her classmates filed an on-campus police report request and discovered 10 “sex crimes” have been reported to the Tarleton Police Department, but not to the Ministry of Education.They published a story J-TAC, The university’s official student publication, leading to federal investigations and Tarton fined $137,000(Later reduced to 27,500 U.S. dollars, and then increased to 110,000 U.S. dollars.)

Communication professor established Texas News Service It became a “student reporter lab” a few years later, said Charles Howard, the former chairman of the department. Over the years, the publication has launched different products and is now a weekly broadcast on websites, newspapers and YouTube. “We are more confident than anyone before Tarleton,” Howard said.

In 2018, college newspapers across the country promoted themselves in the #MeToo movement. Students, faculty, faculty, and alumni are turning to their campus publications to report on the abuse they have suffered by university employees in positions of power.

exist Texas News Service, The editor of that year was Quanecia Fraser, she was a dean’s list student who focused on journalism and broadcasting, and Ma Long, a consultant for the publication at the time, thought he was a talented journalist. “One night, I will open CBS News, and she will provide it,” Ma Long said. “She’s really good.”

Fraser learned that several of Tarleton’s students had stories about Landis. One of the students received a text message from Landis, proposing to “eat, drink and watch a movie” while his wife is away.This Texas News Service A screenshot of the conversation was released. Fraser reported on the student’s account and the Article 9 investigation. According to her report, several women have filed charges against Landis, saying that he invited them to his house or drink with him, even though at least two of them were underage.

According to his resume, Landis finally left Tarleton in 2018. On his way out, he tried to clarify his reputation by writing to outstanding female scholars in his field. chronicle Reported before. They were ridiculed.

Fraser graduated from KETV, an ABC affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska, and is now a reporter and anchor. She was the speaker at the Talton University graduation ceremony in 2019. Fraser was unable to comment on this article in time.

DYson, an English major who plans to become a teacher, takes over as editor of the magazine Texas News Service last year. In early August, she met with a dean to discuss the letter received by the publication. She took Cody Vannoy to the conference with her, a student who joined the publication staff in January.

Vannoy and Dyson listened quietly, and Eric V. Morrow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, explained Texas News Service The status as part of the communication research department means that the publication lacks independence J-TAC. This university, and the Texas A&M system to which it belongs, can Texas News Service Published, he told the students. A spokesperson for A&M Systems declined to comment for this article.

According to recordings of conversations shared with others, Moreau said at the meeting: “Now, people think that universities will take responsibility.” chronicle. Moreau did not respond chronicleInterview request.This Texas News Service, He said, “It’s not a kind of TNS Have the opportunity to do student journalism work without infringing on the institution. “

He said an unfortunate trend in higher education is that some universities try to avoid negative publicity by intervening in the work of campus newspapers.He wants to help Texas News Service Become independent — and have started this process until the pandemic stopped these efforts — but the fact remains that now, the publication is part of the university.

“If they continue to file a lawsuit, they will need time and resources from Tarleton,” Moreau said.

Listen, Dyson began to realize that the university might not support the publication. They might tell her to take the article down. About 10 minutes later, she spoke. There is nothing meaningless to her.

Can I interrupt? She asked. “I have some questions.” “

I looked at Section 16.002 of the Texas Criminal Code, and it says that all defamation cases must be filed within one year of publication in Texas,” she told the dean. “Did we ignore the fact that they might just want to scare A large group of college students? “(“A person must file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution, defamation, defamation, or breach of marriage commitment no later than one year after the day the cause of action arises,” the law stipulates.)

The dean doesn’t think so. He further explained the importance of separating publications from universities.

Vannoy also began to understand what was going on. He worried about the reputation of his publications and what the deletion of these articles would mean for Quanecia Fraser.

If we take it down,” he told the dean, “not only will we disappoint that student, we will also disappoint him. Texas News Service We disappointed Tarleton as a whole and a student body. “

Moreau threw out some hypothetical numbers. It may cost $100,000 to defend this, but it only costs $60,000 to go the other way.It really helps Texas News Service Spend extra money to fight?

At that time Dyson knew they had lost.

“We have an article that really makes sense,” Vannoy told the dean.

The conversation lasted an hour. Finally, Moreau told them not to take the article down. He asked Dyson to see if it was possible to do so.

But the next day, Moreau sent an e-mail to Dyson.

“I received the following instructions from the university administration,” he wrote. “Please have TNS Delete all articles/videos cited in the attached letter. “Landis’s lawyer’s letter is attached to the e-mail.

Dyson deleted the article about Landis. A few days later, the dean requested the deletion of another article, which was published a few months later than the other articles about the policy changes of the Texas A&M University system. Under the new policy, university employees are prohibited from establishing relationships with undergraduate students. According to this articleThe story mentioned Landis, and it was also mentioned in his lawyer’s letter. As of Tuesday, the article is still online.

A generationIn an email, Landis’ attorney, Diana R. Warshow of Nesenoff & Miltenberg, told chronicle “According to our request, the relevant articles have been deleted because they repeated the unfounded claim that Dr. Landis engaged in sexual harassment and created a hostile educational environment, when in fact Dr. Landis was cleared of these allegations.” She added: “Landis was not terminated from Talton’s position, but voluntarily resigned.” However, she continued, “Because of the way the article was written, other parties have been creating and disseminating in the past four years. False statement.”

Professors in charge of supervision Texas News Service Be irritated.

“Universities should be very proud of the work Quanecia Fraser has done, Texas News In the past 15 years, we have done a lot of work in reporting incidents, allegations of sexual harassment, and worse,” Ma Long said. “If this is not the meaning of journalism, illuminating the light in the dark, then I don’t know. What is it? “

Kathryn Jones, another former journalism lecturer at the university, helped found the Texas News Service He married Malone and was responsible for overseeing the Texas and Oklahoma chapters of the Professional Journalists Association. She said that in her time working for the organization, she had never seen something as shocking as Tarleton did.

“We have seen that universities have been opposed to campus news and threatened to withdraw resources,” she said. Even so, she “never saw a university try to erase history.”

Vannoy can understand from a business perspective why the university ordered the deletion of these articles, he said in an interview chronicleBut to his disappointment, campus officials did not see the value of fighting back.

“I don’t think they understand the importance of these articles,” he said. “And understand why we refuse to knock them down.”

Dyson was “completely disappointed.”In the interview chronicle, She cites two of Tarleton’s core value: Leadership and integrity. She thought of other stories she had published, which might not have a good impact on the university. Now, she wants to know when the university will ask her to take those down too.

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