James Madison University Journalists Charged With Violations
Two student journalists at James Madison University have been charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and non-compliance by the University while gathering news information on Oct. 18. The incident has many arguing that the University violated the reporters’ First Amendment rights.
Tim Chapman, editor-in-chief of JMU's The Breeze, and Katie Hibson, a contributing news writer for the paper, have a hearing scheduled for Nov. 5 with the University's Judicial Affairs.
Hibson went to a campus dormitory, Hillside Hall, to interview students and investigate a trespassing incident that occurred Oct. 17. When she identified herself as a reporter, Hibson said she was invited in by a resident, who accompanied her as she conducted interviews in the dormitory. The resident advisor Maria Lane asked Hibson to leave when she was introduced as a reporter for The Breeze.
Chapman accompanied Hibson back to the dormitory later that day with another Hillside resident and assistant sports editor, Emmie Cleveland. Chapman said he brought a printed copy of the school's policy regarding who could enter the dormitory.
Hibson said after trying to interview students, Lane and Hillside Hall Director Sarah Woody asked them to leave, and then called the police.
Chapman said they tried speaking with the RA to find out why Hibson was asked to leave in the first place, but did not receive an explanation.
"The RA couldn't give a good answer," Chapman said. "Aside from that we just needed to leave."
The student reporters have now been charged, prompting civil liberties organizations to criticize the University for violating the students’ First Amendment rights. The Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists have offered their support to the students.