By now, many of you have seen a story we wrote that went online yesterday and in the paper this morning – a story about how the campus police at North Carolina received a report of a possible aggravated assault at the Aloft Hotel.
The original report we received didn't say much. It indicated that it was associated with the Clery Act – a law that mandates colleges and universities keep track of crimes, and alleged crimes, on or near campus. It contained the words “allegation of aggravated assault.”
Beyond that, nothing: no names. No further description of what happened. Or didn't happen.
Eventually, the campus police chief, Jeff McCracken, confirmed that the report was tied to the altercation among football players at the Aloft in early August. Jackson Boyer, a non-scholarship receiver on the team, allegedly received a concussion during the altercation. Yahoo! Sports, which first reported this story, originally described the incident as “hazing.”
Naturally, the response to this story has been predictable among the most vocal of UNC supporters. It has been what I've come to expect when The News & Observer, or any other outlet, publishes a story that's the least bit controversial about UNC (and I'd argue this isn't even really controversial): accusations of bias, name calling, more accusations of bias, “you just hate UNC,” and on and on.
Rather than keep track of the email and all the feedback I'm receiving on Twitter, I thought I'd instead direct folks to this – a frequently asked questions of sorts. This should answer a lot of concerns about this story.
Q. How can you write that the campus police tried to cover up what happened?
A. Funny you should ask. Because we didn't write that. At all. We wrote that the campus police put together a short report – which, the story notes, the chief says is not a traditional incident report, but instead one filed under the purposes of the Clery Act – and that the report was missing information that normally would have been included. That, essentially, is what the story is about. The words “cover up” aren't in the story, except in a quote from the campus police chief in which he says this doesn't point to a cover up.
Q. Then why is everyone I know on the message boards and all my friends saying the paper alleges a cover up?
A. Great question. The power of group think, I suppose. But, again, if you re-read the story, nowhere in it does it make the conclusion that the campus police covered anything up. In fact, the details of the report -- that the athletic department passed on info to the campus police, which passed on info to the Chapel Hill police -- counters that thought.
Q. What, then, is the purpose of this story?
A. The purpose of the story is to show that there was a police record of the incident – however skimpy and inaccurate it was, given all the missing information – and to show what happened after police received word of the incident. If you read the story, you'll know that not much happened. The Chapel Hill Police didn't investigate anything. It's newsworthy because people were wondering about the level of police involvement in this case, if there was any, and it answers some questions about how the authorities handled it.
Q. Oh, so that's the rub, then. You're saying the Chapel Hill police covered it up.
A. No. We're not saying that at all, and didn't write that. As is noted in the story, neither Boyer nor members of his family have spoken with the police. The police also weren't called to the hotel, as we previously reported. So given that the police weren't called, and that the alleged victim and his family aren't talking, what can we really expect the police to do?
Q. Hey, I'll ask the questions here, tough guy. But, uh, yeah – what should the police have done?
A. Some accurate paperwork would have been nice. But beyond that, it's a great question. My opinion here – and it's only that – is that there's not much the police could have done here. They weren't called to the scene. And Boyer and his family weren't interested in speaking with the police. So, yeah.
Q. Oh – almost forgot. I see the word hazing right here in the first paragraph. More inaccurate, salacious reporting, I see?
A. You'll notice the word “may” right before the hazing. Sure, the “may” refers immediately to the prospect of a concussion, but it also applies to the use of hazing, too. Could that have been clearer? I suppose so. But in case you had further questions about it, we also note not long after the initial reference that “hazing” is how Yahoo described it – not how the incident has been “officially” described. We’ve never once written, definitively, that this was a hazing incident.
Q. I read a while ago on Inside Carolina that this was just a Gatorade bath prank gone wrong. Why not report that?
A. I have no reason to doubt the report from IC, which does a great job covering UNC. The issue is we have a strict anonymous sourcing policy at the paper, and my personal anonymous sourcing policy is even stricter. That doesn’t make me better in any way and, in this era, it probably hurts me. That’s OK. UNC folks have been given plenty of opportunities to go on the record and confirm the IC report, and have declined to do so. I get it. The university's lawyers are telling people there not to say a word. Puts them in a tough spot. Puts people covering this in a tough spot, too. Because there's only so much you can do when people won't have their names attached to something. And, by the way, the family hasn't spoken, either, on the record. And though Boyer's brother has written some strong stuff in the public domain, on Twitter, we haven't used that, either. For the record, I’d love to be able to report a lot of the things I’ve culled together in covering this story. And if I don’t get a chance to here, you’ll just have to wait for the memoir.
Q. But you reported the original Yahoo! report and it used anonymous sources.
A. A fair point. In that case, though, we were immediately able to confirm with UNC that it was investigating something – “hazing,” an altercation, whatever you want to call it. The details that Yahoo! reported have come with the “alleged” tag, and we’ve attributed those things to Yahoo. So it's not exactly the same.
Q. Whatever. Why do you guys hate UNC/love scandal so much? Don’t answer -- I’m done.
A. You know, how come I never hear from you when I write something “positive” about the ol' Tar Heels? Have you read this cool story I wrote on Ryan Switzer? It was good.
Andrew Carter is the UNC athletics beat reporter for The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow him on Twitter at @_andrewcarter .