In November 2017, then-President of Portland State University Pro-Life emailed Portland State Vanguard asking for a correction to its Oct. 30, 2017, story “Marginalized over minority voices: ASPSU leaders draw the line.”
In this article, Vanguard wrote that Associated Students of Portland State University Vice President Donald Thompson tore down a banner in Smith Memorial Student Union in mid-October that advertised volunteer training for students working at the controversial Genocide Awareness Project.
Thompson told Vanguard he checked to see if the pro-life group obtained permission to hang its banner in SMSU and found it had not.
Vanguard stated, “Though it’s not common for ASPSU members to enforce poster or banner codes in SMSU because most messages displayed are ‘celebrated’ on campus, Thompson said he took advantage of his authority in this situation and enforced the rules by pulling the banner down.”
PSU Pro-Life contested Thompson’s claim that it broke the rules.
As confirmed Jan. 19, PSU Pro-Life obtained proper permission from Student Activities and Leadership Programs to hang its banner. By tearing it down, Thompson was not enforcing any rules.
In Vanguard’s interview, Thompson said that after he tore down the banner, he confirmed with Facilities and Property Management that PSU Pro-Life did not get proper permission to hang it. Executive Administrative Coordinator for Planning, Construction & Real Estate Sarah Kenney, who took the phone call from Thompson in October, denies telling him this information.
On Jan. 19, Kenney said she told Thompson that SALP, not FPM, would grant permission for the banner because it was hung in SMSU. Kenney also said she could not conclusively tell Thompson whether or not PSU Pro-Life had obtained proper permission. Additionally, Kenney did not know Thompson had already torn down the banner when he called.
Vanguard cannot conclude whether Thompson misled this publication or if Thompson truly had a miscommunication with someone else about the banner. Thompson has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Vanguard apologizes to PSU Pro-Life and the student body for failing to adequately fact-check statements from our student leaders. This article touched on contentious topics including First Amendment rights and our student government’s role in protecting them.
No matter who or what topics we cover, Vanguard is dedicated to writing the truth with accuracy and fairness as outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.