Kent State asks student not to give interviews amid scrutiny

Theater student Skyler Dye said, "first I was confused. Then I laughed. I thought it was so ridiculous."

Kent State University asked a student who commented for a Campus Reform article to forward future media requests to the school.

A student interviewed by Campus Reform regarding his school’s cancellation of its West Side Story production amid cries of racially insensitive casting says that the university asked him not to give further media interviews.

Kent State University theater student Skyler Dye spoke out against the school’s decision to cancel the fall production of West Side Story amid complaints that lead roles were not given to “Latinx” actors, calling the move “bowing to racists.” Shortly after his comments were published, Dye received an email from Kent State School of Theater and Dance Director Eric van Baars, asking him not to give any further media interviews.

[RELATED: University play canceled after not having enough ‘Latinx’ actors]

“Because you were quoted in a recent interview about West Side Story, you very well may be asked to give others,” van Baars said. “This is within your right, however, the university is requesting that any media request for interviews be directed to Eric Mansfield, university relations.”

The message went on to explain that some students who spoke out on the matter had received “hate mail” and assured Dye that the police were involved in the case he had received any threatening communication.

”First I was confused. Then I laughed. I thought it was so ridiculous that I be requested to notify University Relations about media requests,” Dye told Campus Reform. “Why would they want that? For no good reason,” he said.

Dye responded by informing van Baars and Mansfield that he has no intention of redirecting personal interview requests to university relations.  

“I will continue to give interviews, and I expect the university to come up with a better solution to threats than suggesting we ‘just be quiet’ or only talk through certain individuals,” the student wrote to the school.

“Kent State wants students to refrain from media interviews because they foster an environment where we are all supposed to all be warm and cozy and not deal with the fact that people are threatened,” he wrote. “In response, Kent leaves us students defenseless? In fact, more defenseless and restricted than they were before?”

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After Campus Reform published its story, Kentwired published an opinion piece by Kent State journalism student Anna Huntsman, author of Kentwired’s original coverage. The article, titled “When sensationalism takes center stage,” says that other outlets, including Campus Reform, “re-worded” Huntsman’s original reporting and “presented it in a misleading manner by focusing on the most controversial parts of the story.”

“National outlets aggregate content from smaller, regional news organizations daily, and this is not always unethical,” Huntsman writes. “The issue here is that the outlets, specifically Campus Reform and Fox News, took quotes I gathered from my own reporting rather than contacting the sources themselves.”

[RELATED: Conservative students work to defund biased school paper]

Both Campus Reform and Fox News attributed quotes obtained by Kentwired to Kentwired, as is common practice and as advised in The American Press Institute’s guidelines for “ethical curation and attribution.” 

Huntsman also expresses frustration that said outlets obtained their own exclusive information on the topic.

“In fact, one quote from Fox News does not appear anywhere in my story or video,” Huntsman added.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan