Staff Ed – The Evils of Email -dlh

William Dalsen

In last term’s final issue, we published a letter to the editor purported to be from Mike Burkhart, the vice president of Delta Tau Delta. Following its publication, we have learned that Burkhart was not the author of the letter. The published letter does not represent the views of Burkhart or the views of his fraternity, and we therefore retract the letter in full.
The situation occurred in the following manner. An unknown individual sent the letter through a third party email account to *****The Lawrentian*****, and “signed” it in Burkhart’s name. Since our editorial policy at the time assumed the validity of all submitted letters ******– and because we do not have the resources to perform background checks ******– we assumed that the letter was genuine. We discovered the error a few days after publication, and then acted immediately to remedy it.
The letter was pulled from our website, and Peter Gillette and William Dalsen met with Burkhart and Dean Truesdell to discuss the situation. At our request, Truesdell evaluated the situation and decided that this was a violation of our computer use policy and has asked computer services to attempt to trace the email to its original sender.
While we, along with many in our community, have reservations regarding the use of email tracing, we felt that this violation ******– the theft of a fellow student’s identity in order to damage him ******– was significant enough to justify a principled use of that resource, especially since this abuse was a violation of recorded university policy ******– unlike the situation regarding the Senior Streak email.
Regrettably, the reliability of this process has now come under question, and it is quite possible that the imposter will not be discovered or held accountable for his or her actions.
In response to this error, ****The Lawrentian**** has changed its editorial policy, as reflected in the masthead. Letters to the editor must now be accompanied by the author’s phone number so that we can attempt to confirm that the person who signed the article actually wrote the article. In the event that an author cannot be contacted by phone before our deadline, we will not publish the article.
This error is primarily the consequence of the unprecedented abuse of the trust between this newspaper and a member of our community. We have never had a situation in which an individual stole the identity of another in order to submit any article to our newspaper, nor have we had grounds to believe that such a situation would occur. We regret this error, but it is our hope that our new editorial policy will ensure both that the submissions to this newspaper are genuine and also that our authors will not be unreasonably hindered from expressing their views.

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