OxStu pulled after legal dispute with University

first_imgLast week’s edition of The OxfordStudent was pulled after the University threatened Oxford Student Services Ltd(OSSL), the paper’s owners, with an injunction against its publication.The action pre-empted an article thatconcerned an ongoing proctoral investigation into an allegation of harassmentbrought by a student against another undergraduate. Internal investigations ofthis kind are governed by the University’s procedural regulations, which ensurethat the confidentiality of those involved is maintained.An Oxford Universityspokesperson told Cherwell that although the Universityproctors had been aware that The Oxford Student was running the story they onlyintervened at a later stage, when it became apparent that the article containedspecific details from a confidential report on the investigation. Having initially refused to pull thestory, editorial staff agreed to the measure after the University sought legaladvice on the matter. OSSL was informed that the University was able to go tocourt that evening to prevent the distribution of the issue.OUSU President Emma Norris stated,“The decision to stop distribution was made jointly by the publisher andeditorial staff and agreed by all involved.”  As the issue had already been printed,the papers themselves were confiscated and sent to the University’soffices in Wellington Square. They will remain thereuntil all copies can be destroyed. The OxfordStudentwill continue to be published as normalfor the rest of the term. The paper costs an estimated £3,000to print per issue, but the potential cost to OSSL of the paper being withdrawn,including revenue from advertising sales, could exceed £10,000.The University gave its reasonfor requiring the paper’s withdrawal in an official press release: “Publishingdetails of such a case would behighly detrimental both to the conduct of a fair disciplinary process and, potentially,to the welfare of the students involved in the case.” In relation to the details of thestory the University stated, “The edition carried confidential details of an ongoingUniversity disciplinary case against an undergraduate, which had been releasedto the paper in breach of the University’s procedures and without the consentof the individuals involved.”OSSL has the authority to veto articlesif they are in breach of the law, but Norris asserted that “other than this TheOxStu is editorially independent”. One source has informed Cherwell that confidentiality agreements havebeen signed by those involved in the production of the article, preventingdetails of the story from being revealed. Both OUSU and the University haverefused to comment on this matter.Rob Lewis, Editor of The Oxford Student,confirmed that “a story had to be pulled after a legal matter was brought toour attention,” but declined to comment further. While the paper made efforts tomaintain the anonymity of the students involved, the University has expressedconcern that “in a close community such as a university, anonymity cannot beguaranteed simply by changing names, particularly when extensive details of acase are published.” A University spokespersondefended the decision, saying that if details of the investigation had been circulated,it may have lead students to lose faith in the University’s justice system,which operates entirelyconfidentially. They further explained that in normallegal proceedings no paper would be able to publish documents being submittedto the court during a hearing, hence the University’s action over its owninternal justice proceedings.No legal action was taken againsteditorial staff, but the University may have done so had the issue been distributed.Norris said, “No one is liable to legal action as a result of this story, asthe paper was not distributed so no law could have been breached.”ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005last_img read more