Western Illinois University has resisted efforts to disclose more information about the September 25 altercation between a teacher and a student in Knoblauch Hall. But newly released documents shed a bit more light.
The information is included in complaints both parties filed with WIU’s Office of Public Safety (OPS). You can read the reports here.
The reports show both the student and the teacher said the student followed the teacher back to his office after class, with the student complaining about the way he was being treated by the instructor.
Beyond that, their accounts differ.
The student said the teacher “’’thrusts’ his forearm extremely hard into his throat.” The student “stated he could not breathe and remembers his head hitting the wall behind him.” He said the teacher then began to “bob and weave as if in a boxing match.” The student said he defended himself by punching the teacher in the face and then running out of the room, yelling for someone to call the police.
The teacher said the student told him he was “nothing but an old man, you’re ridiculous.” The student then struck him in the right side of the face with a closed left fist. The teacher said he did not believe he made contact with the student.
The reports differ in another – and significant -- way.
The officer who talked to the student reported, “…I could not see any redness or injury to his neck area.” The officer who talked to the teacher reported, “I took pictures of his cheek which was significantly swollen.”
Tri States Public Radio has talked to several people close to the teacher. They said his injuries were serious. He suffered multiple facial fractures, including to the jaw and the orbital bone.
Those sources also said the teacher was questioned for 45 minutes after the altercation without being given medical care.
Western has claimed this was an isolated incident and that there is no threat to public safety. But several sources indicate the student remains on campus.
Tri States Public Radio obtained the OPS reports only after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dispute with WIU.
TSPR filed its initial FOIA on October 2, one week after the altercation. WIU rejected it, citing privacy concerns. TSPR filed another FOIA, asking for the reports with the names redacted. WIU again rejected the request on privacy grounds so TSPR filed an appeal with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which ruled on October 28 that Western had to release the police reports but could redact the names.
Western sent the reports to TSPR on Friday, October 30, at 4:47 p.m., which is after WIU’s offices closed for the weekend.
Western has been slow to release information ever since the altercation happened. The school, which issues a rundown of OPS activity to media three times a week, did not include mention of the complaints in the rundown sent out Monday, September 28.
But word of the altercation had spread through the student body, so a WIU-TV News 3 student reporter contacted the school about the omission. The university then issued a revised rundown that included mention of the complaints but the wording was vague:
“On Sept. 25 at 10:57 a.m. a student reported that he had been physically assaulted on campus by someone known to him. The incident is under investigation;” and
“On Sept. 26 at 12:30 p.m. an individual reported to OPS that he had been physically assaulted on campus on Sept. 25 by someone known to him. The incident is under investigation.”
Even though the rundown stated the second report was made September 26, both reports obtained by TSPR are dated September 25.
The university held a news conference on Tuesday, September 29, after reporters pressed for more information, but little was said during the briefing. After that, TSPR began its pursuit of more details through the FOIA process.
Details of the incident were turned over to the McDonough County State’s Attorney’s office, which did not pursue charges against either the teacher or the student.