A free and open press. What a pain in the neck that can be.
Just ask officials at Oklahoma State University, who are hacked off that newspapers are wondering why the school didn’t notify Stillwater police after students reported they had been assaulted by another student. OSU says a federal privacy law prohibits the release of names or information about victims and witnesses in the case, and that university officials encouraged the alleged victims to contact police.
“The press has tried to indicate we tried to hide something,” said Gary Clark, OSU’s general counsel. “It’s not our place to try to force them to do something they don’t want to do in this regard.”
OSU could have given the identity of the suspect to police after wrapping up student conduct hearings involving the alleged perpetrator, but Clark said officials didn’t think that would have been useful. “What would the police be able to do with that information? Nothing, as far as I can tell,” he said.
Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said he wished his office had been contacted sooner because delays can hurt investigations. The first assault allegedly occurred Nov. 3, 2011. Police didn’t learn of it until last week — after being asked about it by a reporter with OSU’s student newspaper. And now OSU President Burns Hargis has requested an inquiry into the handling of this case.
That danged media, always stirring up trouble.
Time will tell
At a recent State Chamber forum, House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, promised business officials that his caucus was changing tactics in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. “We’re not going back to two years ago,” Inman said. “I’m not going to be throwing rocks to throw rocks to prove a point.” That was an inadvertent admission that House Democrats haven’t been relevant in recent years because they chose not to be relevant. Causing pointless disruption may have made Democrats feel better, but it did nothing for the state and it minimized their policy influence. Whatever limited leverage they had was quickly squandered. Oklahoma voters rewarded that behavior by electing just 29 House Democrats this year, the lowest number in state history. Time will tell if House Democrats become serious players at the Legislature, or if Inman is merely giving lip service to the concept.
David Northcutt, chairman of the Democratic Party in Bryan County, recently issued a missive he described as “very much in the spirit of Christmas.” Apparently, those words have a different meaning to Northcutt. He attacks Republicans as sore losers, but then personifies the sour-grapes mindset. Northcutt said President Barack Obama’s election was cause for Oklahoma Democrats to celebrate but “our celebrations were tempered with disdain” by the Oklahoma gains of the Republican Party, describing “feelings of anguish” as he watched Democrat candidates “fall to lesser opponents in Oklahoma politics these last several years.” Northcutt rightly criticizes those who’ve called for secession after Obama’s re-election, but then he lumps serious leaders like Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor in with them. Even prominent national Democrats have praised Ryan for tackling serious budget problems. That Northcutt thinks avoiding fiscal catastrophe is equivalent to demanding secession shows why his party is struggling in Oklahoma.
Rough stuff didn’t work
Nice showing by the unions this week in Michigan in their effort to thwart right-to-work legislation. Union members swarmed the Capitol grounds in Lansing, at one point ripping down a tent that belonged to a group that favored right to work and punching out one of its occupants. Nuance has never been Big Labor’s strong suit. It’s always been easier, and more effective, to resort to muscle. The unions didn’t succeed this time, as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder held firm and signed the bills into law. What paved the way for this change was rejection in November of an effort to guarantee collective bargaining by placing it in the state constitution. Voters gave the idea just 42 percent approval. Right to work is now the law in 24 states, but none of the others carried as much symbolic value as Michigan.