University of Wisconsin officials met with The Mendota Beacon Thursday, expressing concern over the student newspaper's recent coverage of an alleged hate crime in Ogg Hall last month.
The Beacon, an openly conservative bi-weekly student newspaper, printed a photo and revealed the name of the alleged hate-crime victim, an LGBT liaison.
"There's this unspoken rule that you would never print a person's name or picture of a person that had been the victim of a crime," UW Housing Assistant Director Larry Davis, who met with the Beacon, said. "It just seems morally offensive to me that you would print someone's name and picture without their consent."
According to Davis, the decision to include such information was made by Beacon News Editor Grant Anderson, whom Davis said added the information after reporter Chelsey Lewis excluded it.
Anderson said he made the decision because he did not know of the liaison's request for anonymity and because, in his estimation, the liaison is a public figure.
"He is paid and receives housing from the university and his information is publicly available," Anderson said. "Without knowing that he had made it clear he didn't want his name in the public, it was — it seemed fair."
According to Davis, Lewis did not speak with the liaison but knew of his request for anonymity.
Anderson, who briefly freelanced for The Badger Herald last semester, said he was not present for Thursday's meeting, which was held between Davis and Beacon Editor in Chief Jeff Healy.
Perhaps most troubling to UW, Davis said, is what he called the questionable motives Anderson had for exposing the liaison's identity.
"The interesting thing about Grant is Grant lives on the same floor as [the liaison] does," Davis said. "I expressed concern with Jeff about that, also."
Healy, whom Davis described as "extremely apologetic" during Thursday's meeting, said the Beacon believed and continues to believe its decision was well within its legal rights.
"We deemed him to be somewhat of a public figure mainly because his picture, his name and some biographical information remained on the UW website today," Healy said.
And, Anderson pointed out, the liaison sent an e-mail to his floor mates after the incident last December commenting on the incident and providing his name. For this reason, Anderson said, it "seemed he didn't want it to be hidden."
These are not reasons UW journalism professor Robert Drechsel finds particularly compelling, however.
"I guess on the one hand, the encouraging thing is that apparently they gave some thought to what they were doing," Drechsel said. "I don't know that I'm particularly convinced by the justification, but at least they gave some thought to it."
According to Drechsel, the liaison's e-mail lends some credibility to his status as a public figure but still does not warrant his exposure.
"He didn't do anything to invite becoming a victim of a crime," he said. "Nothing compels anybody to publish anything, [and] I likely wouldn't have made the same judgment."
The liaison, too, called into question the Beacon's moral judgment in a phone interview with The Badger Herald.
The liaison said he wished the Beacon had withheld his name and photo "out of respect."
According to Davis, the Beacon's decision left the liaison in a tough situation, since his identity had previously been well guarded — even among housing staff.
"In some ways, I think [the LGBT liaison is] more hurt by this situation — not that he wasn't hurt by the other situation," Davis said. "We weren't even telling our own staff who it was. … We were saying it was a 'gay staffer.'"
Still, Anderson said that he stands by his decision.
"I'm not concerned about his well-being," he said. "He was a public figure."