Press freedom woven into fabric of First Amendment

By Jack Miles

First Amendment binds all American freedoms

Freedom of the press, of speech, of religion, of assembly and to petition the government are woven, like stars in the flag, into the fabric of the First Amendment.

The blood of patriots is the seed of the Republic. The founders and those who followed in their footsteps invested their lives in this country. They assured there would be freedom of religion, and from religion, so the government could neither bless nor ban what anyone believes, as occurs under radical theocracies and communist regimes. The founders secured freedom of speech, to assemble and to petition the government to redress grievances, which is denied by China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and others that fear opposition. They also created one freedom that binds and protects all others, and has done so from before the founding of the republic – freedom of the press.

More than four decades prior to the day when Congress ratified the Constitution, colonial printer John Peter Zenger in 1733 began to publish scathing-but-true stories about the misdeeds of New York’s haughty royal governor. Zenger languished in prison for nearly 10 months for the crime of truth telling about a politician. But Zenger and his attorney made jurors understand a new concept – truth is a defense – and Zenger went free.

Shielded by truth, journalists for nearly three centuries have been free to jab their pens at those who threaten the First Amendment. There are myriad examples involving religion alone. They include news reports about Congress trying to disenfranchise Mormons in the late 1880s and extend to modern times and the painful recognition that even vile speech, such as that practiced by Westboro Baptist Church, must be permitted as a religious liberty.

Journalists help keep us free to question, learn and disagree.

Now, as in the beginning, freedom of the press abides in the courage of men and women who report the news, whether those reports arise from between white columns in Washington, D.C., or beside the fountain at Lions Lake in Washington, Missouri. A reporter’s work is often more routine than grandiose. On most days, reporters gather police and fire statistics; they report on the scandal de jour and the zoning board meeting; and they describe a range of human experiences, from a walk through a conservatory alive with iridescent blue morpho butterflies to a father and daughter found drowned on the Rio Grande’s muddy banks.

But not all journalists complete routine days. A bullet killed Ernie Pyle in a safe zone on Ie Shima during World War II; he is one of many reporters who died to bring the public truth about war. Last year, in Annapolis, Maryland, a man who rejected having his criminal record reported walked into The Capital Gazette and killed five employees. Routine days are not guaranteed.

Seasoned reporters understand the importance of safeguarding the First Amendment. They know, also, that though telling the truth is made more difficult in these topsy-turvy times – when truth is flippantly called “lies” and lies are defended as truth – if they do not do their duty, then no one will. From time to time, explosions of criticism and unfettered hate may around them rage, but because reporters are loyal to the duties of a free press, including to challenge government leaders and policies, each of the First Amendment freedoms continues to wave like stripes in a flag emerging in the dawn’s early light.

Local artist seeks to create “a sense of mystery” in work

By Fay Kabasu

Throughout October, artist Marilyn Murphy’s illustrations will be displayed in the Volunteer State Community College Art Gallery, which is located on the first floor of the Steinhauer-Rogan-Black Humanities Building (SRB).

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Murphy lives in Nashville where she is a Professor Emerita of Art at Vanderbilt University. She got her Bachelors of Fine Art at Oklahoma State University and Masters of Fine Art at University of Oklahoma.

Murphy’s drawings are inspired by film noir and the aesthetics of magazines from the 1940’s and 1950’s that she grew up admiring.

The illustrations capture people in dark coloring and shades that evoke a mysterious meaning. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “film noir” is, “a type of crime film featuring cynical malevolent characters in a sleazy setting and an ominous atmosphere that is conveyed by shadowy photography and foreboding background music.”

About her art, Murphy stated, “My drawings typically include one or two figures involved in improbable action”, and, “strong lighting and shadows create a sense of mystery while the identities of the men and women are obscured in order to direct the focus of the viewer toward heir activity.”

Students’ Austin Bonebrake and Barbara Martorello enjoying Murphy’s art.


VSCC Chief must be accessable

By Jim Hayes

This week’s Settler has three stories dealing with American’s right to free speech, and just as we have that right, the corollary is also true, private citizens have the right to be silent.

However, public officials on the government’s payroll have a responsibility to make themselves available not only to the media, but also to private citizens.

Unfortunately, Volunteer State Community College Police Chief Angela Lawson does not appear to understand that responsibility.

On seven occasions over the past year, The Settler has attempted to communicate with Lawson. Last year, when the Annual Security Report (ASR) was released, an attempt to contact her was made. The Settler received no response from Lawson.

The Settler was similarly ignored when Lawson’s office was contacted after someone dropped some dynamite off at a weekend event.

(In the interests of full disclosure, the author of this article was the person who made both the above attempts and the three most recent attempts to contact Lawson.)

The Settler scheduled two meetings with her last year. Not only did she not appear at either one, but we received no notice as to why she was a no-show.

Judging by Vol State’s low crime rate, it would not seem that law enforcement duties caused her to fail to appear.

Finally, this year, we were able to talk with her about parking tickets for a story. However, attempts to reach Lawson regarding an attempted abduction at the Cookeville campus and the latest ASR have gone unanswered.

Queries about why the police chief is unavailable to us have netted The Settler only vague intimations that, at some point, Lawson had an issue with the paper.

However, three things must be made clear about Vol State’s student newspaper: it is a student paper, and thus, since the students are learning the nuances of journalism, we occasionally make mistakes (and if those mistakes are pointed out, we correct them).

Secondly, Vol State is a community college with students generally on campus for only one or two years. So, holding a grudge over a lengthy period of time seems kind of pointless.

Finally, although we are a student newspaper, we are still an accredited member of the Tennessee Press Association and therefore entitled to the same courtesies that would be extended to The Tennessean.

Those items aside, the Vol State Chief of Police is still a public employee. She is the face of the college’s law enforcement and safety efforts and as such must make herself available when the media, be it a student newspaper, the student radio station, a community newspaper, or a larger media outlet like The Tennessean or a television station, come calling.

Yes, every private citizen has the right to both free speech and silence, however every public official must remember that they have a responsibility to communicate with the people they serve and with the media which serves as a conduit to those same people.

It is well past time that The Settler had access to the police chief of the campuses it serves.

Origins of Body Farm disclosed

By Luis Quintanilla

Dr. William M. Bass, founder of the Body Farm, a research facility dedicated to studying decaying bodies for forensic anthropology at the University of Tennessee (UT), gave a presentation to students and community members on Thursday at the Gallatin campus of Volunteer State Community College.

The presentation began around 11:15 a.m. in the Caudill Hall Auditorium at Vol State. The first 100 students to arrive received free T-Shirts designed for the event. The auditorium was filled, and it was live-streamed to Vol State’s other locations in Livingston, Highland Crest, and Cookeville.

In his presentation, which lasted about an hour, Bass chronicled the beginnings of the Anthropology Research Facility or, the Body Farm, at the UT and also walked the audience through the forensic and investigative processes of his work with bodies.

The presentation opened with brief information about The Feed and how to donate. Afterwards, Dr. Jerry Faulkner, President of Vol State, welcomed the audience, which consisted of community members, Vol State students, and visiting students from Hendersonville High School and White House Heritage High School, before introducing Bass.

Bass began by engaging with the audience and pointing to a plastic skeleton sitting on the stage and asked the medical students in the audience, something he would do periodically throughout his presentation, what bones were missing from it. Bass’s presentation would have the audience laughing throughout as he did not hold back his humorous side while speaking, no pun intended.

He then chronicled the origins of the Body Farm. He stated that for 11 years he taught at the University of Kansas in the late 60’s.

When asked by law agencies to aid in cases involving the murder of cattle by cattle rustlers, Bass could not help since at the time there was no literature to help identify how long the cattle had been dead. Bass laid out this lack of knowledge in the field of forensic anthropology as the origin story of the Body Farm.

Once at UT in 1971, Bass spoke of how law agencies came to him for help with analyzing a dead body. Once the investigation was concluded, Bass said he attempted to give the body back to law enforcement but was told to keep it for research purposes at the University.

Having nowhere to store it at the university and after searching for a place to do so, Bass said he was given a plot of land to conduct research behind the UT Medical Center.

Bass then showed several pictures of the clearing of the forested and subsequent area that would become the Body Farm.

Bass explained the origins of the name “Body Farm” coming from Patricia Cornwell and her book “The Body Farm.” Bass said he believed this term was born when Cornwell heard it in an FBI meeting where agents had visited the plot of land in Knoxville coining the now famous name.

The presentation moved onward with Bass showing pictures of the transportation methods used to deliver bodies to the facility and talking about the team effort that went into the process of the analyzing of bodies.

“You and I can go from what we are now, to a skeleton in 12 days,” said Bass.

To showcase this, Bass went through the gradual decomposition process the human body goes through by showcasing graphic photos taken of a corpse at the Body Farm over the span of 12 days. The photos left audience members visibly struck as they gasped, wrenched, and looked away.

More pictures of different cases were shown such as the case of Michelle Anderson, a 15-year-old girl who went missing in Knoxville in 1987.

Bass spoke of his work on analyzing her skeletal remains found 2 years after her disappearance. He impromptu quizzed the medical students in the audience once again in identifying the bones displayed on the screen.

Most of the students passed this quiz as they shouted out their answers, and Bass congratulated Faulkner on doing well with educating the students at his school.

The rest of the time was allotted for questions and answers. Seven people from the audience went to the microphones to ask questions. Some of the questions were concerning the amount of bodies at the facility, the reasons Bass decided to go into anthropology, and what impact Bass felt the facility and its research has had since its inception. Bass responded to the questions of the amount of bodies at the facility, by going in depth of the process of receiving bodies, sometimes through donors, and responded to the question of his interest in anthropology with a metaphor he felt during his military service. Bass said in junior year of college, he took several anthropology courses and felt intrigued by its content. Bass was originally majoring in psychology, but Bass said where as the field of psychology was always changing and new concepts had to be learned, anthropology remained constant and easier to grasp.

“This right here is the humerus. It’s a humerus anywhere you go. It was that ‘Ah moment,’” said Bass regarding his switchover from the constantly changing dynamics of psychology to the more detailed structure of anthropology.

He said while serving in the Korean War, he thought of birds flying south for the winter. He likened this to his situation and said he questioned where he was at and where was going. He briefly spoke of his first wife, Mary Ann Owen, and how they both met during his time in the

military. Bass said he consulted with her first and with the green light from her decided to make the move to anthropology.

“It’s the best move I ever made,” said Bass.

Regarding a question on the impact of the facility and its research and whether he was proud of how far it had come since the days of not having a place to store a single body, Bass responded that when he was analyzing cattle remains in Kansas in the 60’s, he had no idea it would take him from there to the establishment of a research facility now known as the Body Farm. He mentioned it led to new literature and knowledge on information that was not previously available, and mentioned it was not just him but many others contributed to its growth and research as well.

A final questioned was posed by Faulkner to close the presentation, “What grosses you out?”

To which Bass responded, “Stupidity.”

Dr. William H. Bass is a forensic anthropologist whose career in anthropology stems back to the mid 50’s. According to a definition given by Smithsonian, forensic anthropology is “a special sub-field of physical anthropology (the study of human remains) that involves applying skeletal analysis and techniques in archaeology to solving criminal cases.” These remains are then analyzed to determine the identity of the person who died, how they died, and when they died. This kind of information is instrumental to criminal cases as can be seen with Bass’s decade long interaction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and as a consultant to the Tennessee’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. According to his CV, Bass received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, as mention earlier in his junior year of college Bass became interested in anthropology. After serving in the military from 1951 to 1953, Bass returned to college to earn his master’s degree in anthropology and then later his PhD in

anthropology. His field work during various summers for the Smithsonian excavating cites and analyzing skeletal remains of Plains Indians in the American Midwest led to his dissertation: “Variation in the Physical Types of the Prehistoric Plains Indians.” Bass would go on to teach at various universities before landing at the University of Tennessee in 1971. There he would be a professor and head of the Department of Anthropology and later the director of Forensic Anthropology Center, the now famous “Body Farm.” Bass is now Professor Emeritus, a title for retired but still recognized successful and respected professors.

According to the University of Tennessee’s website, the Forensic Anthropology Center was established by Bass in 1987. The approximate 2 acre plot of land known as the Body Farm is the Anthropology Research Facility. Aside from research, it serves as a training ground for forensic anthropology. “Additionally, we serve the community via our body donation program, consultations to the medico-legal community, and outreach to promote science and disseminate our research results” says the Forensic Anthropology Center’s page. The facility studies the decomposition of bodies and analyzes skeletal remains for research regarding “skeletal variations, pathology, and trauma,” says the FAC’s page. It also gives training in forensics to agencies such as the FBI and TBI.

The Feed implements new process to distribute food to those in need

By Velma Crochet

Student Support Services took over the daily operation of The Feed in July. Tiffany Zwart, Coordinator of Student Service Support said procedures have changed starting with how students can make contact to receive assistance.

All registered students at Volunteer State Community College can log into their portal, then click on the tab labeled The Well.

Next the student will need to scroll down to the white and green box

labeled The Feed with the triangle on it.

This link will lead the student to information about the services offered and will direct the student to the Wood building room 215.

Another way to access information about The Feed is at

The web page will also direct the student to Student Services in the Wood building room 215.

Zwart said she hopes to dig deep and get to the root of the problem and find out why the is student hungry?

If a student is hungry, struggling to buy books or having trouble putting gas in their car to get to school being successful can be difficult.

The staff in student services will help with the immediate need for food, hygiene, diapers or toilet paper to name a handful of items available in

The Feed.

It is also a chance for the staff to make the first contact with the student, to find out what else they could possibly need and help them fill out any applications for future services.

The student also will be told the Sumner County Food Bank if the student needs more assistance.

The goal of The Feed is to help students, but also to make sure everyone understands they can come by the Wood building room 215 and ask for help. If it is something not offered at VSCC the staff will help connect the student to the correct resource.

After a student visits The Feed, Zwart or another staff member will send a follow-up email with links to any services that are needed.

If the student needs food again, an appointment will be set up.

The Feed is working on setting up a text system that will make contacting students for future visits simpler.