Editorial: CPS incident reports withheld from Index

posted in: Opinion | 0

In our last issue of the Index, our news section featured, for the first time, a copy of Campus Public Safety’s monthly incident report. On the report were documented cases of drug violations, alcohol violations and harassment that occurred on the Forest Grove campus within the past month. The reports did not disclose details about the offenders: no names, no genders, not even the locations where the violations took place.

If you turn to the news section of this issue, one will notice that those incident reports are not featured in this issue. While the Index had been receiving the reports since November, our Feb. 17 issue was our first issue in which we chose to publish them. On the Monday following our publication date, we received an email from the CPS officer who’d provided the reports to us in the past, stating that he’d been specifically instructed to no longer provide incident reports to the Index staff.

Despite being a one-time appearance, the feature was a hit and we as a staff had intended to keep it going, at least for the rest of the semester. The initial intention was to follow the cases from week to week and collect a pool of data that could perhaps potentially evolve into a story. So you could say that we were a bit miffed to find out we’d suddenly been denied access.

We tracked down a source that said we were no longer being given the reports because it was a violation of Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

Ok, first of all, the reports we published didn’t include details that could make the students identifiable.

Second, sorry, but we’re a student publication, not an arm of the university- thus the same rules of FERPA don’t apply to us.

Third, other private university newspapers are known to publish their campus incident reports without having to deal with this indirect form of censorship.

Finally, if CPS had turned over any the reports to the police, those incidents become public records and if we wanted access, all we’d have to do is walk across the street to the Forest Grove Police Station and ask.

Another point worth mentioning is that, by mere coincidence, we published the incident reports on the Thursday before Pacesetters Weekend- a weekend when hundreds of prospective students, and their parents, are on campus, touring the grounds and- oh yeah- reading the Index.

Obviously as a university we want to put our best foot forward and advertise the positive aspects of Pacific to outsides audiences, including potential students and people writing the checks, but it’s unreasonable to pretend that Pacific and its students are immune to issues concerning drugs, alcohol and abuse. Shuffling it under the carpet doesn’t mean it’s not there. We’re like any other university and these are issues our students interact with directly or indirectly, actively or passively- sometimes on a daily basis.

While this may just be speculation, we as a staff would like to express our sincere hope that our university wouldn’t withhold the truth from its students, just for the sake of appearances.

We of course don’t encourage the creation of incident reports, but we do believe we should be allowed to publish them. As a staff, we are committed to pursuing this issue and hopefully future issues of the Index will continue to include an incident reports feature.


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