Leave it to the Huffington Post to wrongly criticize the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. (FIRE)

KC Johnson of Minding the Campus reports.

HuffPost Gets It Wrong on a Campus Rape Case

Earlier this week, Huffington Post’s Tyler Kingkade published an article strongly critical of FIRE’s efforts to shine light on Occidental College’s troubling approach to due process. The article implied—without saying so directly—that FIRE was responsible for alleged harassment towards anti-due process activists on the campus. The underlying skepticism about the free exchange of information might seem unusual, but actually is a hardly uncommon tactic among opponents of campus due process.

The basics: FIRE posted court documents from one of the many campus due process lawsuits, this one filed by a student who claimed he was falsely convicted by a disciplinary panel at Occidental College. Kingkade claims that, in the aftermath, several witnesses to the case received harassing e-mails, “presumably” as a result of the FIRE post. Kingkade’s article gives no indication that he attempted to contact the authors of the allegedly harassing e-mails.

Kingkade’s article was odd in two important respects. First, it implied that FIRE had somehow breached decorum or court guidelines by inappropriately publishing confidential material. In fact, FIRE had posted publicly available court documents. It’s not clear why Kingkade believed these documents were confidential, or why he didn’t check with the court before making writing his article. (A subsequent correction to the article alleged an “editing error” but only obfuscated the issue, still implying that FIRE had inappropriately posted confidential items rather than publicly available court documents.)

Second, though his article included several other alleged e-mails, Kingkade presented to FIRE evidence of only one harassing item, an e-mail allegedly sent to Professor Danielle Dirks. But Dirks’ involvement in the case is hardly a secret, and no one could simply presume that the alleged e-mailer learned of Dirks’ role from the court documents. Here, for example, is an interview with her on the topic (with photo, as well) in LA Weekly. And here she is (just a flattering photo) in a Los Angeles Times article. And here she’s thrice referenced (no photo, this time!) in a LA Progressive article on the lawsuit against the school filed by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. And here she is, being uncritically quoted by Marie Claire.