Danielle Susi & ‘The Quad News’ Staff, Quinnipiac University

Back in 2008, students working for the Quinnipiac campus newspaper, The Quinnipiac Chronicle, were frustrated by QU administrators’ efforts to muzzle the paper, including an absurd demand from President John Lahey that the paper could not publish articles online before they were in print. In the face of these threats to a free press, the student editors decided to form a new, independent student news source online: The Quad News. Almost five years later, the website is still publishing campus news daily, and beginning in February of 2012 they began occasionally printing in paper form.

As The Quad News celebrates five years on Quinnipiac’s campus, the CFN asked Senior Managing Editor Danielle Susi to talk about her experience as a student journalist and tell us what advice The Quad News staff has for other students who want to stand up for press rights on campus:

CFN: Tell us about The Quad News

The Quad News (TQN): The Quad News is the independent student news organization at Quinnipiac University. We like to call ourselves the independent voice of Quinnipiac. The organization was founded in the spring of 2008 after a free press issue on campus. Since that time, we have established a regular weekly posting schedule and post breaking news as it happens. Beginning in February of 2012, The Quad News began printing in paper form, though not regularly.

We learned about FIRE, initially, through reports about Quinnipiac’s red light free speech status in 2008. Since that time, we have followed FIRE as a part of a personal responsibility to educate ourselves on current free speech issues as they relate to college students.

CFN: The Quad News had a free press issue on campus in 2008. Can you tell us about it?

TQN: During the split in 2008, a university rule kept editors of the school-sanctioned newspaper, The Quinnipiac Chronicle, from posting breaking news stories online before they were printed on paper first. University officials cited that the possibility of the dissemination of inaccurate information online was a liability for the public affairs department. Chronicle editor Jason Braff received a warning after publicly criticizing the University’s web posting policies, and other members of The Chronicle soon became restless and felt as if they were simply there to print public relations information rather than real journalism.

Finally, Quinnipiac administration completely eliminated students from the decision-making process about the future of the paper, and everyone but the illustrator left and began work on The Quad News. After a number of other issues, the story about the split landed in an editorial in The New York Times. Soon enough, the University realized how serious these students really were about the creation of this new, innovative site. The rest, I suppose, is history!

CFN: What has been the most difficult part of challenging press censorship on your campus?

TQN: One of the most challenging aspects of press censorship on our campus is probably the fact that we aren’t allowed to meet on university grounds. The Quad News is completely banned from campus, and with that, we have no use of the university facilities or funding. We can’t reserve meeting spaces or student center tables, and initially during the founding a gag order had been placed on officials by the University.

That said, I don’t think any of us would change the way we operate just for printing money or fancy computers. We have an opportunity to present the news exactly how we want and in a manner that truly speaks as the voice of the student body at Quinnipiac. Is there risk involved with what we do? Certainly. Is it worth it for us? Absolutely.

There is a very apparent competition between The Chronicle and The Quad News, but we value it. I think it pushes both sides to not only get the best possible story, but to get it out there first.

CFN: What advice do you have for other students who want to promote student rights on their campuses?

TQN: Truthfully, fearlessness has been our best friend during this journey. The founding editors made all of this possible in their bravery in the face of what they knew to be wrong. The editors of The Quad News have faced new challenges in every year leading to this one, and we don’t expect that to stop at any point. We know that each obstacle we overcome makes us that much better.

My advice to those students who are aiming to promote student rights on their own campuses would be to rely on the people who care about the issues just as much as you do. I’m forever grateful to the staff that surrounds me because I know that each of them pushes me to conquer my own fears or anxiety about speaking out against censorship.

CFN: What future projects is the paper working on this year?

TQN: This spring term marks the 5-year anniversary of the founding of The Quad News, and for some of us, our final semester with the organization. We think of ourselves as leaders in journalism and whether that means live-streaming campus events through our website or using unconventional methods of reporting, we like to push ourselves to think outside the box. We’re very lucky right now to have an extremely creative editorial board—especially our Editor-in-Chief, who has really brought The Quad News to a new level. I can’t give away the secrets about what we’re working on currently, but I do know that we’re looking forward to constantly surprising everyone.