Oct 082010
 
 October 8, 2010  Online, Youth & Schools

When people require law enforcement to comply with the law, they may be accused of “not cooperating” with authorities. In today’s installment, anonymous people in the prosecutor’s office semi-smear Rutgers University for upholding their legal obligations. Mary Diduch reports:

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has subpoenaed the University for e-mails regarding University first-year student Tyler Clementi’s complaint that his roommate, School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Dharun Ravi, used a webcam to spy on him and his sexual encounter with another male, according to The Star-Ledger.

Investigators believed the University was not fully cooperating with the investigation of 18-year-old Clementi – who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge shortly after Ravi’s alleged actions – two officials unauthorized to speak because of the case’s ongoing nature told the Ledger.

“The investigation is continuing and we can’t comment further,” the prosecutor’s spokesman James O’Neill told the Ledger.

Read more in the Daily Targum.

This is exactly the same issue we saw in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 when authorities there claimed the university wasn’t cooperating because the university insisted — rightfully so — that the authorities produce a subpoena or court order. Under the federal law protecting student privacy, FERPA, there is an exemption to protection, but the university cannot just turn over e-mails and other records without some legal document requiring them to do so — even if they very much want to.  In this case, it’s not clear whether Rutgers feels it has something to hide in terms of any possible liability, but even if they felt no liability, they still could not produce the records without the required paperwork.

Rather than some anonymous corner-cutters accusing Rutgers of not fully cooperating, the anonymous investigators should just go get the damned paperwork that’s required and stop grumbling. It really isn’t a big deal to get it and there are no exigent circumstances.  No need to smear the university because you don’t want to have to comply with the law.

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