Winthrop Student Newspaper Criticizes Administration’s Lack of Respect for Freedoms of Speech, Press

By April 16, 2013

The Johnsonian (TJ), a student newspaper at Winthrop University in South Carolina, recently published a blistering editorial criticizing the Winthrop administration for its lack of respect for freedom of speech. 

The Johnsonian staff writes:

The official motto of Winthrop is "Live, Learn, Lead." If we pay attention enough on campus and in our classes we can hear that motto reiterated so many times until it becomes practically redundant.

However, there is another less official theme that tends to resonate around Winthrop’s campus. This whispered motif seems to flit around the campus green, curl around the halls of the arts and sciences department and sing along with the notes in the music conservatory.

It is the almost tangible annihilation of transparency and the First Amendment. 

The criticism seems to be well-deserved, at least in some areas. For instance, earlier this year, the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reported that the TJ staff felt that "their reporting on their new president … prompted what they see as harassment from a trustee." Specifically, TJ staff members who were reporting on a visit from then-presidential candidate Jayne Comstock reported that they were approached by Kathy Bigham, chairwoman of Winthrop’s Board of Trustees. According to student reporter Kaitlyn Schallhorn, 

Bigham questioned the credibility of articles Schallhorn wrote about the candidate’s controversial past and told them not to ask any questions about it, Schallhorn said in an interview.

Shortly after the incident, The Johnsonian published a staff editorial stating that  

The Johnsonian is a family. We stand together. And together we stand up against an administration who over the past week has showed a slew of intimidation and flaws in professionalism. We refuse to back down. We refuse to let them dictate what we can or cannot report on. And we refuse to let them put a damper in our passion for uncovering the truth.

Check out the rest of the TJ‘s hard-hitting editorial, which features criticism of the Winthrop administration for lack of transparency and mentions of both FIRE and SPLC.