Florida Atlantic University Threatens Student Paper Over Advisor’s Voluntary Service

By on June 11, 2010

Call me crazy, but if I ran a collegiate newspaper and a veteran professional journalist with years of experience in the field were willing to give free advice to my colleagues and me, I would take him or her up on the offer. Such was the situation at the University Press at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), where advisor Michael Koretzky has continued his service to the paper in a voluntary capacity after he was recently dismissed from his advisory position after 12 years of service. Alas, FAU has rained on the parade by threatening disciplinary sanctions against the paper’s editor-in chief if she continues to allow Koretzky’s voluntary services. 

Here’s how Sommer Ingram, a staff writer at the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), summarized FAU’s rationale:

Koretzky was fired last month and since then has continued to work with the University Press newspaper staff on the summer issues as a volunteer adviser. But on Wednesday, UP editor-in-chief Karla Bowsher said she was warned that if she continued to recognize Koretzky as a volunteer adviser to the paper, she will be breaking university policy.

[...]

The administration’s contention is that Bowsher is an employee of the university, and all employees are subject to university policies. Bowsher said university policy states that advisers must be employees, and therefore by asking Koretzky to be a volunteer, she is breaking policy.

All of this is a lot of nonsense. If a student paper wishes to accept the volunteer counsel of an experienced professional, it has every right to do so, as both the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the SPLC told the university in letters sent this week. As SPLC President Frank LoMonte wrote:

If journalists at the University Press wish to have their work critiqued by Mr. Koretzky, by a professional journalist at the Sun-Sentinel, or by an attorney from the Student Press Law Center, that is their absolute right. They should be congratulated  not threatened  for seeking input from a more experienced reviewer.

Beyond violating the University Press‘ First Amendment right to free association, FAU is de facto ordering publications to act against their own editorial interests. If, say, David Remnick of The New Yorker or Graydon Carter of Vanity Faireditors who know a thing or two about print journalismwanted to give some voluntary advice to any of FAU’s official publications, would FAU really expect the publications to say no?

Come on, Florida Atlantic University. Stop making trouble for the University Press and drop these nonsensical threats, or you may receive a letter from FIRE to go with the ones you’ve already received from the SPLC and SPJ.    

Schools: Florida Atlantic University