EDITORIAL: We stand with UK’s Kentucky Kernel

We stand in support and solidarity with our colleagues at the Kentucky Kernel.


UK’s Memorial Hall.

The University of Kentucky, the largest public university in the Commonwealth, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against its own student newspaper.

UK filed a lawsuit against its own students.

Students who are encouraged to get an education and learn real-world experience working for the Kentucky Kernel, the independent student newspaper, are now facing a real-world lawsuit.

I guess it doesn’t get more real than that.

First off, please read the Kernel’s coverage of the lawsuit. Their reporting has been outstanding.

How odd it must be to cover a suit against the publication you write for, filed by the very university you aim to serve.

The short version of the story involves an open-records request filed by the Kernel to the university to obtain documents pertaining to the sexual misconduct investigation of associate professor James Harwood.

When UK refused the request, the Kernel appealed to the Kentucky attorney general. On Aug. 9, Attorney General Andy Beshear said UK should hand over the documents. The university announced the suit the same day.

UK said its dispute was not with the Kernel, but with Beshear’s decision (who is also named in the suit). The university said it was protecting the victims, despite the fact that representatives of the victims want the investigation released, with names redacted.

Tom Miller, the attorney for the Kernel, said in their reporting, “It’s necessary to get full disclosure for the protection of all students and for the public to know how the university undertakes to protect its students.”

This comes just one week after Northern Kentucky University filed a gag order in an ongoing federal lawsuit involving a female student.

As reported by our Editor-in-Chief, Abby Anstead, the victim’s attorney, Kevin Murphy, said, “This is a public university – and instead of encouraging freedom of expression and freedom of the press – they’re trying to silence.”

University spokesperson Amanda Nageleisen said the motion hinges on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the federal law to protect student privacy rights.            

These stories are alarming to all of us in the newsroom, and they should be alarming to the students who attend this university.

Our job is to both hold people accountable for their actions, and to give a voice to the voiceless on campus. We are your watchdog.

Yet there are those who would try to silence student journalists, both here and in Lexington. It’s not just our voice they’re trying to silence, it’s yours.

Rest assured, we will not be silenced, and neither will our colleagues at the Kernel.

Let me be clear – we have a good working relationship with the university. Our job does not mean we are out to get people. That is not journalism.

Our job is to make sure those who are supported by taxpayer money and your tuition are following the rules and to make sure your stories are told and your voices are heard.

I speak on behalf of our entire editorial staff at The Northerner when I say that we stand in support and solidarity with our colleagues at the Kentucky Kernel.

If you have a story that needs to be heard, good or bad, feel free to stop by and see us in Griffin Hall, room 125. We are here to serve you, our readers, and nobody else.