Officials remove student from newspaper post

University claims editor broke rules by investigating grades of leaders

GEORGIA -- Kennesaw State University administrators forced the editor of the student newspaper to resign in April after she refused to name a confidential source who she claims helped her investigate a story.

Becca Garber, editor of The Sentinel, said school officials' decision to remove her from her position and bar her from holding any leadership position on campus during the fall 2001 semester was unfair.

The punishment came after Garber approached the assistant faculty adviser to the African-American Student Alliance and informed her that an investigation found that the organization's newly named president and vice president did not meet the group's minimum GPA requirement for leadership positions.

The group's faculty adviser, fearing the release of the information to Garber was a violation of the two students' privacy rights, brought the matter to university administrators, who called Garber in for questioning.

Administrators said they decided to punish Garber after meeting with her and determining that she violated a section of the code of conduct designed to protect students' privacy.

The section of the Kennesaw State Student Code of Conduct dealing with disruptive and dangerous conduct states that 'no student should act in a manner that can reasonably be expected to disturb the academic pursuits or infringe upon the privacy, rights, privileges, health or safety of other persons.'

Nancy King, vice president of student success and enrollment services, said Garber originally told her she accessed the grades herself, only claiming later that a confidential source accessed them for her. King also said that she believed Garber was not acting as a student journalist.

'At no time did she claim she was working on a story,' King said. 'In fact, she claimed to me that she was trying to keep the story out of the papers. So this wasn't a case where she was working as a student journalist and researching a story.'

Garber, who has retained legal counsel, declined to comment on how she obtained the grade information.

But Robert Tsai, an attorney with the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was important to determine whether the portion of the student code Garber allegedly violated is narrow enough that she could have been expected to know that her actions were in violation.

Since May, Garber's attorneys have requested proof that Garber accessed the grade records herself. But as of July, administrators had not provided any records to support their claim. Garber's attorneys declined to comment on the issue.

Although the two students' names and GPAs were mentioned in an April 4 article describing the disciplinary action taken against Garber, no story was ever published specifically about the students.

Fall 2001, reports