Lawsuit pits UK against its independent student newspaper - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Lawsuit pits UK against its independent student newspaper

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Marjorie Kirk, Editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernel Marjorie Kirk, Editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernel
Attorney General Andy Beshear Attorney General Andy Beshear

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- A legal battle is brewing between the University of Kentucky and its independent student newspaper.

The Kentucky Kernel wanted information on the school's investigation into claims of sexual misconduct against a professor, James Harwood.

"That's why we asked for the full investigation," said Marjorie Kirk, the editor-in-chief of the Kernel. "We want to know exactly what he did."

But UK refused, claiming it was trying to protect the victims.

"The university is trying to do what it can to protect that victim survivor, who comes forward courageously to report a horrific incident when it does happen," said UK spokesperson Jay Blanton.

The Kernel appealed to the Attorney General, who ruled in favor of the newspaper after UK declined to provide the information, even to his office.

"What does it say that the institution that we trust to educate our kids, that are supposed to push for high ideals, seek knowledge and search for the truth, are the ones that are hiding it?" Attorney General Andy Beshear asked.

The university has now sued the Kernel, saying it wants a judge to decide the matter.

"If this opinion stands, if it becomes law, it will have a chilling effect, a chilling impact on the numbers of students who we believe would come forward and report these kinds of incidents," Blanton said.

Now Beshear has joined that lawsuit on behalf of the Kernel, saying UK's action opens the door to others trying to hide information.

"UK's lawsuit would create a silver bullet that would allow any bad actor to entirely avoid the open records law," Beshear said. "For the university to push such a position is entirely irresponsible."

"Well, we respectfully disagree," Blanton said. "And sometimes, you have to agree to disagree."

"If this became a precedent, and the university got to pick and choose which investigations it handed over, there's potentially hundreds of cases about huge issues on campus, especially sexual assaults or harassment or any kind of sexual misconduct, that would go unnoticed,' Kirk said.

The professor at the center of the case left UK after reaching a settlement with the university.

The Kernel is now raising money to defend itself in court. The Kentucky Press Association has given $7,500, and if you'd like to donate, click here.

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