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U of P President Issues Gag Order

University of Portland President David Tyson says students can be expelled and faculty fired if they talk to the press about a murder investigation.
U of P President Issues Gag Order
U of P President Issues Gag Order
Catherine Mary Helen Johnson was found dead in her University of Portland dorm room on May 29. The investigation into her death continues. No one has been arrested.

Now, KOIN-TV reports, the president of the university, David Tyson, has issued an e-mail warning students and staff not to talk to the press about the case or be kicked off campus. Kathleen Campbell, the public relations flack for the Catholic university, defended Tyson's memo, which some students decried as censorship. Campbell tells KOIN that the memo was intended to prevent faculty and students from revealing information that would jeopardize the investigation.

An autopsy revealed that the 19-year-old Johnson was sexually assaulted and strangled. There were no signs of forced entry to her dorm room. The building required a security card for entry. KOIN reported that police had asked some U of P staff members to provide DNA samples.

homepage: homepage: http://www.koin.com/c6k/news/stories/news-92980620010822-170815.html

The Shame of Censorship 23.Aug.2001 07:37

Lee White wlsherri@qwest.net

The brutal murder of 19-year-old Catherine Mary Helen Johnson in her University of Portland dorm room is doubly tragic because it remains unsolved. University President the Rev. David Tyson, meanwhile, is wilting under the unblinking glare of TV cameras the case has drawn to the usually-peaceful campus.

Tyson issued a memo threatening to expel students and fire staff members who talk to the press about the murder. Word of this edict came one day after the university issued a news release stating that an unspecified number of its employees had "volunteered" to submit DNA samples at the request of police. The fact that police are testing U of P employees' DNA does not mean they're suspects, said police spokesman Lt. Mike Hefley.

"It is standard operating procedure to ask people who have had access to a victim's premises--friends and acquaintances, family, and in this case campus employees," Hefley said. "In any crime, you have to start at the baseline. We try to quickly eliminate innocent people to focus an investigation, save time and hopefully find the truth."

Hefley's statement, included in the university news release, begs two questions. First, if it is important to "quickly" eliminate innocent people, then why did it take police nearly three months to request DNA samples? Second, what motivated U of P employees to run to the laboratory? Was it an altruistic desire to solve this unfortunate crime? Or was it the gentle pressure of a judge's pen hanging over a quiver of search warrants?

Forgive me, Father Tyson, but I question the motives of anyone who threatens subordinates' livelihoods for exercising their First Amendment rights. Had the good father stopped with the news release about the "volunteer" DNA tests, I would probably never have noticed. By raising the nasty specter of censorship -- it doesn't matter why -- he has drawn to his institution the very kind of unsavory attention and speculation he apparently sought to avoid. Need I remind the good Father that the local church, of which his university technically is not a part, has a less-than-stellar record in the secrecy department?