Student suspended from campus for improper photography
By Ingrid Wilgen/@ingridwilgen
Campus administration suspended a 25-year-old male student, following a June 18 incident in which he was arrested by UPD for improper photography.
The student was allegedly seen by a female witness using his cellular phone at approximately 1:00 p.m. June 18 to improperly photograph a woman without her effective consent in the women’s restroom, Room 316, of Madla Building.
UPD Officer David Jenkins responded to a 1:25 p.m. dispatch call describing a “white male taking pictures inside the female bathroom,” according to a UPD police report filed June 20.
Minutes later, Jenkins, who was patrolling the campus, said he stopped a male student who appeared to match a witness’ description, running westbound on the sidewalk just before the intersection at University Way, according to the report.
Jenkins activated the overhead lights of his vehicle at 1:29 p.m., stopped the student on the sidewalk and questioned him. The officer asked the student to empty his pockets which contained keys, a cell phone and a silver thumb drive. According to the report, the student was not carrying a wallet or identification and was asked to provide his driver’s license number. A search yielded no wants or warrants.
Officer Jenkins asked the student if he had been on the third floor of the Madla Building and if he had used the bathroom while there. The student answered “yes” to both questions.
When asked why he was running along the sidewalk, the student said he was going to his vehicle to get his books before his class, the report states.
Both the cell phone and thumb drive were seized and placed into evidence.
The officer positioned the student in front of his patrol unit so he could be viewed on camera. A female witness positively identified the student “as the person she saw inside restroom Room 316 on the third floor of the Madla Building,” the report reads.
The code includes anyone who “while on the premises of a public place, looks into an area such as a restroom or shower stall or changing or dressing room that is designed to provide privacy to a person using the area.”
The student was then taken to a UPD interrogation room.
According to the report, Jenkins issued a disorderly conduct citation to the student who was then released.
Administration would not provide specific details about this incident, but Dr. Melissa Mahan, vice president for student affairs, provided details about interim suspensions and the disciplinary process in general.
Students were informed June 23 through a campus-wide email from the Office of University Communications that,
“[The student] is suspended from campus pending completion of an investigation and adjudication.”
“A student can be placed in interim suspension before a conduct hearing, if you feel like there is a threat to anyone on campus, or if you think there is harm or a compelling reason to do so,” Mahan said.
The vice president for student affairs, according to the Student Handbook, has the power to impose an “immediate interim disciplinary action when he or she believes that the presence of a student on campus poses a continuing danger to persons or property or presents a threat of disrupting the academic process, and when required to ensure the student’s own physical and emotional well-being.”
Interim suspension denies a student access to campus, classes and any university functions. Suspension can last no longer than 10 class days and does not take the place of a formal hearing.
“Every student has the right to due process,” Mahan said. The Student Handbook requires students to be notified in writing of the charges and their rights. Students also have the right to defend themselves in a fair and impartial hearing and be given access to case files kept by the university and other arbitrators.
The accused can bring in witnesses and present evidence.
Defenders can ask questions of anyone giving testimony about the incident, with the exception of sexual assault and harassment cases.
Texas Penal Code categories improper photography as a sexual offense.
“Photographing or recording someone in a bathroom without their consent to invade their personal privacy or gratify a sexual desire,” is a sexual offense under Texas Penal Code 42.01.
Typical penalties are incarceration in a state jail facility for no less than six months or not to exceed two years and up to $10,000 in fines and fees. Penalties increase if minors are involved.
Editor’s Note: Delayed Public Information
The Mesquite requested a police report in regards to this incident through an open records request June 24 but was denied by University Communications which replied in a June 26 email, “We are not able to release any further information as this is an active investigation.”
The office denied the release of public information, citing the law enforcement exception in the Public Information Act, which states information held by law enforcement agency that deals with detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime is exempted from the requirements of Section 552.021.
After consulting with The Student Press Law Center, a student reporter requested the police report again July 9 on the basis of Jaguar Student Media’s right to request a redacted version of the report, arguing the university could not use an active investigation exemption to withhold all information in the offense report. University Communications responded the same business day with a redacted report.
Although there was no immediate threat to the campus community, the student newspaper used its legal right to re-request details on the incident on behalf of the student body’s right to know about campus safety issues.