Administrators seize mysterious files

Student journalist files suit against university following confiscation

OREGON -- A student editor filed a lawsuit against three university officials March 16 for violating his First Amendment rights and confiscating a box of confidential university records that landed outside his office door.

Portland State University officials locked Dimitrius Desyllas, editor of an alternative campus publication, The Rearguard, out of the newspaper's office and detained him for more than two hours after they learned he had the box of confidential student disciplinary records, Desyllas said. He said campus police followed him around campus for almost two hours, threatened to arrest him and threatened to obtain a search warrant if he did not give them the files.

Rod Diman, assistant to Portland State's president, said he, the student government president and a campus police officer simply talked to Desyllas after they received a note from him indicating he had the files. Diman said there was no interrogation and said he talked to Desyllas for no more than 40 minutes.

According to Diman, the university "has not been able to track where that box was between when it was closed" in 1995 and when it was left outside the Rearguard office.

After school officials questioned him, Desyllas gave them the box of files and was allowed back into his office.

Desyllas' attorney, Philip Lebenbaum, said the suit was filed in federal court, and there is a conference scheduled for early July. He filed an amended complaint in May accusing the university's public safety officers of tearing down posters promoting a press conference about the case.

Lebenbaum accused school officials of engaging in blatant censorship of The Rearguard.

"It's really no different than the police finding that the local newspaper has sensitive information that the police were in charge of and the police going in and detaining an editor and locking down the pressroom," he said.

reports, Spring 2001