“She was told she would be investigated not only as a student, but also as an employee of the newspaper because she received a $75 stipend during the semester.”
A student journalist at Frostburg State University in Maryland has written some stories which are critical of the school’s COVID-19 policies. Then something bizarre happened.
She reattached a note to a staff member’s door after finding it on the floor and was subsequently told she was being investigated for harassment.
The school dropped the investigation after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) got involved.
From the FIRE blog:
A student re-attached a fallen note of support to a staff member’s door. Then her university investigated her for harassment.
How far will a university administration go to retaliate for bad press? At Frostburg State University, the answer is chilling.
Student reporter Cassie Conklin must have ruffled some administrative feathers for covering criticism of the Maryland university’s COVID-19 response for the student newspaper. After video showed her re-attaching a fallen note to a staff member’s door during a campus protest, she found herself the target of a baseless harassment investigation by the administration, and the newspaper found itself facing university demands to investigate and punish its own reporter.
“The realization that the president of Frostburg State University, a school that I deeply love and respect, chose to personally target and retaliate against me for my journalistic efforts has been overwhelming, confusing, and hurtful,” Conklin said.
The investigation was even multi-pronged:
One day later, the vice president for student affairs summoned Conklin to a meeting and said that the president’s office helped initiate the investigation “because of [Conlkin’s] role with the newspaper.” She was told she would be investigated not only as a student, but also as an employee of the newspaper because she received a $75 stipend during the semester.
This video, which is cued to begin at the 3:01 mark, shows Conklin picking up the note off the floor and reattaching it to the door:
It should also be stressed that the note in question, was one of encouragement and support:
A student journalist at Frostburg State re-attached this note, which had fallen, to a staff member's door. Then the university investigated her for harassment. Today, @TheFIREorg and @SPLC defend her rights. https://t.co/zPjbPbmOa4 pic.twitter.com/isFOIdmeAJ
— Daniel Burnett (@Burnett18) December 14, 2020
Conklin is looking for an apology from the school.
I am also looking for an apology from @FrostburgState & @FrostburgPrez. He knew the accusation was baseless and disproven by video evidence and yet he still pulled The Bottom Line into a meeting with less than two hours notice. Why? What was the point? https://t.co/a7cWK71gPq
— Cassie Conklin (@conklin_cassie) December 16, 2020
She is also thankful to the people who supported her through this.
Thank you, @TheFIREorg for this factual, well-written story about @FrostburgState. Thanks to @SPLC for their incredible support. As always, thanks to @BottomLineTBL for covering this personal story. (@C_msul & @delblubaugh are great colleagues.) https://t.co/cwHlvMLeXB
— Cassie Conklin (@conklin_cassie) December 14, 2020
We should all be thankful for the FIRE and the great work they do.
BREAKING: @FrostburgState says no punishment or further investigation into student reporter who faced harassment complaint for re-attaching a fallen note to a staff member's door. https://t.co/863aQiIGcw
— FIRE (@TheFIREorg) December 15, 2020
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