Central Washington University: Student Media Face Defunding Threat, Onerous Interview Practices


Central Washington University

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

In November 2019, The Observer — Central Washington University’s student newspaper — published an editorial criticizing various departments at the university for requiring prior review of interview questions before allowing their employees to be interviewed by student media. On November 21, FIRE sent a letter to the university asking administrators to put a stop to this censorial practice. The evening before, on November 20, 2019, the CWU Services and Activities Fee Committee entertained a proposal to defund The Observer and other student media in response to The Observer making public its concerns about prior review of interview questions. During the meeting, the Committee offered various pretextual reasons for why it might investigate or defund student media in light of this controversy, an action which would violate the First Amendment and Washington state law. FIRE and the Student Press Law Center sent a second letter to the Committee on December 9, 2019, urging it to assure the public that it will not investigate or defund student media because its members dislike some of The Observer’s content. The administration responded to FIRE’s November 21 letter, committing to working with student journalists to create policies that confirm administrative approval of interview questions is not required for employee interviews. These policies remain forthcoming. Regarding FIRE’s December 9 letter, the S&A Committee announced in its January 8, 2020 meeting that it would not defund or censor student media.