The president of a Christian college in East Tennessee has apologized for trying to restrict a student newspaper from publishing a story about a professor arrested on charges of attempted child molestation.
"If we have upset or offended anyone relating to this situation, we apologize. It was not our intent," President Stephen Livesay of Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., said in a statement on Friday. "Our intent was to look at the situation as Christians and do what was right. As humans, we are fallible."
According to Chattanooga Times Free Press, Alex Green, editor of the student paper, the Bryan College Triangle, wrote a story about the resignation of Biblical studies professor David Morgan, who was arrested during an FBI child molestation sting. He was reportedly trying to meet underage girls for sex at a gas station in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
The college head didn't allow the newspaper to publish the story, saying he first needed to confirm the details of the professor's arrest, though the article quoted from public records. However, the editor chose to distribute the story himself, placing fliers across campus with the original story.
"In hindsight, this may have been a mistake," Livesay now admits. "We believed we were doing the right thing to protect the privacy of a man charged, but not convicted, of a crime. We have had no reports of any inappropriate behavior involving Dr. Morgan and our students, faculty or staff during his two years at Bryan. A thorough background check before he was hired showed a clean record."
The college president added he was unwilling to comment on the case earlier because it occurred during the summer when students were not on campus, and the professor resigned on his own. He said the Triangle is produced as part of a class, and students receive academic credit for their participation. Therefore, "the Triangle falls under the supervision and authority of the administration. This being the case, we did not believe the college should put itself or its publications in the position of commenting on pending criminal or judicial matters."
The goal of Bryan College, he said, "is to teach our students to put Christ above all so that we can make a difference in today's world. It means doing the right thing. This is why we requested that our student paper not publish information regarding the resignation of a faculty member, Dr David Morgan, this past July."
Livesay said the college has learnt from the incident "as we continue to carry out our mission to put Christ above all and make a difference in today's world."
The student editor said the college has taken no punitive action against him and he feels supported by his professors and newspaper colleagues. "I have been treated gracefully," he was quoted as saying.