Elon University Investigates Student Who Told Pendulum Campus Newspaper She Drinks with Fake ID

Elon University officials are investigating a student for honor code violations after she told the school’s campus newspaper she drinks underage at a local bar thanks to a fake ID.

At the tail-end of a story late last month about a nearby tap house known as a place “where [underage students] can consume alcohol without getting caught,” an Elon sophomore willingly gave The Pendulum the following quote, on the record, with full attribution: “Fake IDs do work.  I have a 21 wristband due to my fake ID, so I don’t get in trouble for drinking.”

Can you guess what happened next?  As the Pendulum reported yesterday, “It wasn’t long before she received an email from Jodean Schmiederer, assistant dean of students, telling her to set up a Student Conduct meeting to address the admitted Honor Code violations.”

According to the paper, it is the first time a student has been investigated due to something they have said in a Pendulum story.  It appears to fall under a blanket rule stating students are “responsible for every action made between matriculation and graduation,” including comments made on social media, in online forums, and apparently even within student publications . . . if they use their real names.

To steer clear of trouble, one Elon admin. suggests that when talk turns controversial or wades into illegality, students should stay anonymous– a protective instinct he says the student press should also possess.  As he asks the paper, “Would the story have had a bigger impact for me as a reader if you said ‘a sophomore with whom we spoke said this?’  That would have been just as informative to me as it would to have used someone’s name.”

Hmm.  Smart suggestion or dangerous precedent?  Pendulum staffers and Student Press Law Center attorney advocate Adam Goldstein call it hypocrisy– making the school seem more concerned about stopping attributable statements about illegal behavior than actually stopping the behavior itself.

Goldstein: “It’s like a no fly list, right?  We only catch terrorists who go under their real name. If you’re smart enough to lie about your name, then you’re not going to get caught. There’s an element of that here.  Does the university want to stop underage drinking, or do they want to stop people from admitting it?

In a well-written editorial, the Pendulum pointed out the irony of the investigation being launched less than a day after a high-level admin. said at a public event there are no free speech restrictions on campus.  As it begins, “The guise of meaningful exchange and public discourse has been ripped away to expose Elon University’s true priorities when it comes to free speech on campus.”

It subsequently attacks the school for “punishing a student for speaking candidly about a serious campus problem. . . . We are a community that must listen to one another, even when that dialogue is one not necessarily easy.  The Elon administration has made a grave mistake and the Pendulum will not stand for it.  Elon must not create an environment where students are scared of repercussions and become unwilling to speak to the Pendulum or any other news organization.”

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