Why Wesleyan’s Student Newspaper Isn’t Naming the Molly Overdose Suspects (At Least Not Yet)

Although edged out of the national spotlight a bit in recent days by a dress debate and llama-gate, the Molly/MDMA scare involving nearly a dozen Wesleyan University students and a few others continues to reverberate heavily across the news, social media and higher ed spheres. 
The latest major update was the arrest last week of four Wesleyan students allegedly connected in some way to the distribution of the possibly tainted drugs. The university also immediately suspended the student suspects.
Soon after the quartet was booked on a number of drug-related charges, most professional media such as ABC News published each of their names and other personal information (including the fact that one is apparently the founder of the school’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy). Rolling Stone also ran their mugshots
By comparison, thus far, The Wesleyan Argus has held back. In its initial Molly arrest article, the campus pub confirmed it was declining to ID the students.

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As a college media watcher pointed out to me, that decision has spurred some criticism from online commenters — including one who posted the student suspects’ names in protest beneath the main Argus piece.
To learn more about the decision to refrain from naming the students, I reached out to Argus editors-in-chief Gabe Rosenberg and Sofi Goode. In response, they kindly offered some insight into the top eds’ rationale.
The gist: At a time of heightened campus tension and severe health scares, the paper does not want to unfairly demonize students who have been charged but not yet convicted in the case.

What do you think?

Here is the full rundown from Goode and Rosenberg:
“The decision not to publish the names of the arrested students was a temporary policy made by the editors-in-chief in consultation with the Argus’ executive editors (who served as EICs in previous semesters). Although we were concerned with getting the most reliable, clear information out to the Wesleyan community — students, families, faculty, staff and alumni — which is our primary audience, we felt that with Wesleyan in the national spotlight this information would be readily available [elsewhere] for those interested or concerned. We have also received comments on our website naming the students, and we will not remove those, as to do so would be censorship that we’re not OK with.
“As a community newspaper, we did not feel comfortable drawing a direct link between the students arrested and the drugs that caused the recent hospitalizations, and took into consideration that the investigation was still ongoing and no student had been convicted. Wesleyan as a whole is still reeling from this tragedy, and at the time of our publication, several of the hospitalized students were still in critical condition. Given that campus atmosphere, we decided that our reporting at the time could still maintain journalistic integrity and be a source of quality information without releasing the names of those students arrested.
“As the story continues, we’ll be continuing to look at those events and at Wesleyan’s drug policies as a whole. It’s the Argus’ job to archive campus events, and as the investigation continues, we do anticipate releasing the names of the students.”
Comments
One Response to “Why Wesleyan’s Student Newspaper Isn’t Naming the Molly Overdose Suspects (At Least Not Yet)”
  1. Emily says:

    The initial decision of the Argus editors was reasonable. Typing the one-word search term “Wesleyan” into Google or any search engine will immediately yield the names of the four students implicated. So, yes, that information was already “readily available elsewhere”.

    And if somehow members of the Wesleyan community were NOT paying attention to national news on TV or the internet, then it actually works to the advantage of the police investigation and prosecution of the drug crimes.

    Students have already cooperated with the investigation by turning over physical evidence (drug samples). And testimony about which of the students directly sold the dangerous designer-drug cocktail that put their peers in the hospital, including one student who remains in a coma after near-death with no pulse, breathing, or heartbeat.

    Also the broader purpose of the prosecution is to investigate the long-standing drug-dealing operation in which students were selling about 20 other kinds of illegal drugs, besides their “Molly” mixture.

    There naturally will be some wavering between reluctance to “narc” on someone who is a friend-of-a-friend of so-and-so. But most students will conclude that druggies have gone too far this time, and therefore actually want the perpetrators to be held responsible.

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