Even before the Division of Student Life released a statement regarding Dalton Beitel’s death on Tuesday, the rumor mill chewed away at the privacy of Beitel and his community. That’s not okay.
Beginning in the afternoon, when several police cars, an ambulance, and a CSI van pulled into the Lake Hollingsworth Apartments parking lot, texts began circulating within the student body about what happened.
Information is more available to us than at any other point in history, conditioning us to expect—and demand—a story to hold on to. When we don’t have a story, we cling to conjecture and rumor as a coping mechanism: to the detriment of respect for those directly affected by the event itself.
From the beginning, students (including ourselves, at first) were indelicate in their search for information, badgering each other and members of administration for information. So were parents: in the “Florida Southern College Parents” Facebook group, some speculated why it hadn’t yet been reported by news networks.
Tuesday, after the College put out its statement, rumors continued to circulate regarding the nature of Beitel’s death, going so far as to suggest that the young man overdosed on a drug or took his life purposefully. This is not right.
When a death occurs on campus or any other place, students have no moral right to spread unsubstantiated speculation. To do so is to misinform people who trust your word, and to dishonor Beitel and his family.
At The Southern, we have a journalistic duty to report the truth, and to do so in a way that preserves the dignity of those we are reporting on. The night of Beitel’s death, the editors met together and worked for hours with our advisor to put out an article that we believe is responsibly written.
At a moment when immediate news trumps accurate news, be content with not knowing and instead mourn the loss of a member of our community. We owe Beitel, his family, his RA, his friends, his professors and anyone who knew him to recognize that our duty to care supersedes our desire to know what happened.