Mishandling of BGSU faculty email lobbying scandal leads to shake-up at Sentinel-Tribune

The fall-out from my November 30 article exposing a large number of faculty at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) for having used university resources to lobby against House Bill 48 (Eliminate many 'no-guns' victim zones) and highlighting comments from Dr. James E. Evans labeling the National Rifle Association (NRA) as "a murderous terrorist organization that is a threat to national security" continues, and it has expanded beyond the realm of academia to journalism.

As I noted in my first follow-up article, one of the first to respond to my report publicly was BGSU professor Timothy Messer-Kruse, who chose to express his displeasure through a racially-charged article published at CounterPunch.org.

Other public responses have come through blog posts or media outlets.

BGSU's student newspaper - The BG News - published an article by managing editor Michele Mathis, with the promise of a follow-up article after the winter break. The article informed readers of the issue, and presented quotes both from my article, and from faculty members who objected to it. The piece is generally balanced, and presents an overall look at the issue of concealed carry on campus from both sides.

Another media outlet - the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune - seems to be struggling a lot more to deal with this scandal in an objective manner.

Despite our having notified the newspaper that BGSU faculty had been caught using university resources for lobbying activity, the newspaper chose not to cover it. Instead, the first mention of the scandal came in the form of a letter to the editor published Dec. 9, in which Grand Rapids, OH resident Raymond Gomez penned a poor, biased, inaccurate paraphrase of my article. According to his letter, trying to ensure that potential victims of mass shootings have the ability to defend themselves is "absolutely ridiculous and callous." I've been told that my 400 word response to Mr. Gomez will be published via a letter to the editor in an upcoming issue of the newspaper.

David R. Dupont, who is currently listed as an employee on the Sentinel-Tribune website [Update: the Sent-Trib has now removed Dupont's name from the page], but who apparently recently resigned, took to the blogosphere to criticize my article. DuPont admits that it was a violation of university policy for faculty to use @BGSU.edu emails, and admits that "the NRA is not per se itself 'a murderous terrorist organization that is a threat to national security," (how gracious of him!) but goes on to complain that "the NRA simply throws its big bucks and political muscle against any rationale[sic] effort to control guns, and in favor of legislation that makes it easier for terrorists, not to mention drug lords, gang bangers, criminals of various stripes, anti-government unregulated militias and, yes, [the Colorado Planned Parenthood facility attacker], to get their hands on firearms." He does not explain how he believes the NRA is responsible for helping these criminals and terrorists, who primarily obtain their guns through illegal means.

While Dupont seems to have quit the Sentinel-Tribune of his own accord, the Toledo Blade is now reporting news that another employee's departure from the company was by no means voluntary, and indicates there has been a lot more going on behind the scenes at the Sentinel-Tribune in relation to the BGSU email scandal.

From the article:

A veteran newspaper reporter who was promoted to editor of Bowling Green’s daily newspaper in 2013 was fired Monday for insubordination.Image of Jan Larson McLaughlin at Sent-Trib.com

Jan Larson McLaughlin, 53, said she was handed a letter of termination accusing her of insubordination for allowing news staff members at the Sentinel-Tribune to read an editorial about the NRA that she had written, as was her normal practice.

Sentinel Publisher and Vice President Karmen Concannon killed the editorial and subsequently declined to discuss the matter with staff members who asked her to reconsider publishing it.


Mrs. McLaughlin believes she was not fired for writing the editorial but for attempting to discuss the matter with the publisher, who she agrees has the right to reject an editorial.

“I knew that particular editorial was dead, but I needed to know how to proceed from there,” she said. “I needed some direction. She refused to talk to me. ... The newsroom standing behind me was just the last straw of me constantly pushing to be a better newspaper, to be who we are supposed to be in the community.”

The Blade provided McLaughlin's unpublished editorial for download, and reading it make it increasingly clear why a McLaughlin-led Sentinel-Tribune was not interested in investigating or publishing news of the email scandal when first notified:

We as a nation are still mourning one mass shooting when the next occurs. Yet the NRA refuses to discuss any type of gun control, any form of background checks, any type of study that might lead to some answers. Instead, when legislators consider measures to reduce gun deaths, the NRA and its tentacle groups assign them failing grades and label them as anti­gun. National leaders, who talk tough about protecting our borders from threats, last week voted down legislation that would prevent people on our nation’s “no­fly lists” from legally buying guns. That seems like a no­brainer, but some of our elected officials are so scared of getting on the NRA’s naughty list that they won’t even take common sense steps on gun control.

McLaughlin's statement that the NRA "refuses to discuss" "any form of background checks" is, of course, completely and provably false. In fact, not only did the NRA endorse legislation proposing the creation a national system of “instant background checks” in 1991 (as an alternative to a seven-day waiting period contained in the proposed Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act), but just four months ago the NRA announced support for legislation which would patch some holes in the current national background checks system by encouraging states, through the promise of federal funding, to send more information on mental-health records to the national database. But why let the facts get in the way?

McLaughlin wasn't nearly finished:

Recently, the Buckeye Firearms Association went a step further and blasted criticism at Bowling Green State University faculty members who had written to State Rep. Tim Brown, R-­Bowling Green, asking him to not support legislation allowing concealed carry of firearms on Ohio college campuses


The gun association got the list of BGSU faculty who wrote to Brown by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The group specifically targeted James Evans, a geology professor, for his email to Brown in which he called the NRA a “terrorist organization.”

The Buckeye Firearms Association stated the definition of terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” As far as Evans is concerned, the NRA meets that definition — except that in the U.S., it’s legal.

Again, the entire Evans quote, which McLaughlin chose not to use in her editorial, was that the NRA is "a murderous terrorist organization that is a threat to national security." Apparently McLaughlin somehow thought it would be easier to help Evans stretch the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations' definition of terrorism over the NRA, which is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, if she left out the entire quote.

Again from McLaughlin's editorial:

The Buckeye Firearms Association accused BGSU faculty of violating policy prohibiting their use of university email to contact their legislators. However, there is no policy in place that prohibits such use. Dave Kielmeyer, university spokesman, said that faculty and staff are encouraged to avoid using BGSU email accounts to advocate their personal positions. But in response to the accusations by the gun group, the university issued a statement that “discussions by academics via university email or list serves on social issues, particularly those affecting the learning environment at BGSU, are absolutely appropriate.”

"No policy in place that prohibits such use?" To the contrary, the BGSU "Handbook of Commonly Shared Employment Policies for BGSU Faculty, Administrative and Classified Staff" states that "It is university policy that all contact with state and federal legislators and governmental agencies be coordinated through the Office of University Relations and Governmental Affairs. That office, working with the President, is responsible for engaging in meaningful dialogue and relationships with government officials and agencies at the local, state and federal levels."

Furthermore, university policy states that "Use of the University letterhead, address, e-mail system or other identification that might associate the content and conclusion of the document with the University should be avoided."

The policy goes on to express that "The aforementioned points on use of the University name, letterhead and e-mail apply specifically to political activities (including lobbying efforts to influence legislation or regulations) by any member of the BGSU community, except in connection with an institutional position taken by the University." (emphasis added)

While the university's statement indicates that internal discussions via @BGSU.edu email or listservs do not violate this policy, it is clear from the wording of the policy itself, and from the spokesperson's comments, that the BGSU faculty in question did violate the policy requiring them to "avoid using BGSU email accounts to advocate their personal positions," something that McLaughlin clearly missed, summarizing her position on the email scandal by saying that "the criticism of faculty input seems to be one more effort by the gun lobby to take the focus off the issue of gun violence."

Actually, we focus on the issue of "gun violence" every single day, and we work hard to ensure that peaceable citizens aren't made victim to it by anti-self-defense extremists like her. No, our criticism of the BGSU faculty input remains focused on their misuse of university resources in order to attempt to influence legislation.

Since the BGSU faculty and their friends in the media wish to continue to weigh in on this, I'd like to invite them to explain why they are arguing that the State, not the universities themselves, should set safety policy for campuses? Why do they think it's dangerous to let universities make their own rules on the topic of safety? When the people most familiar with its inner workings fear allowing the university to set its own rules, does it say something about the dysfunctionality of the university's leadership?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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