SYRACUSE, N.Y. , May 8, 2006—Exposing a disturbing trend in campus censorship, Le Moyne College has dismissed its college newspaper’s adviser for not exercising more control over the student paper. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) joins the national organization of student newspaper advisers, College Media Advisers (CMA), in condemning Le Moyne’s actions. The staff of the Dolphin student newspaper has also staged a months-long strike in protest.
“This is only the latest example of the growing trend of increasing university control over student media,” stated FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “If organizations and individuals do not take a stand to oppose this encroachment, the independent student media may become a thing of the past.”
Professor Alan Fischler had served as adviser to Le Moyne’s newspaper, the Dolphin, since 1996, when he was chosen by the newspaper’s student staff. Fischler told FIRE that last November, he was dismissed as adviser when administrators told him that they wanted a more “hands-on” adviser who would supposedly make the newspaper a “showpiece” for the college. Fischler, who continues to teach at Le Moyne, will be replaced by an adviser hand-picked by administrators—a move that has spurred the extended strike by the Dolphin’s student staff.
Fischler reports that the Dolphin did not shy away from criticizing Le Moyne’s administration. In fact, Fischler himself penned a column last year about Le Moyne’s wrongful dismissal of Scott McConnell, an education student whose case FIRE first brought to public attention. Fischler wrote, “I love Le Moyne…[a]nd in 17 years of teaching here I have never had occasion to feel ashamed of it—until now.”
On May 3, CMA censured Le Moyne for its action, saying that the censure “serves as a warning…that Le Moyne fails to value the exercise of free speech and the value of a free press on the college campus.” Le Moyne’s demand that an adviser directly interfere with students’ work contravenes CMA ethical principles requiring that advisers “defend and teach without censoring, editing, directing or producing” the students’ content.
The trend toward administrative control of student press has been building for some time. In 2004, FIRE intervened at Missouri State University when the administration castigated the newspaper’s adviser for running a cartoon that was considered offensive by some Native Americans. In December of last year, FIRE joined an amicus brief in Lane v. Simon, a case in which the student newspaper adviser was dismissed at
Kansas State University because of the paper’s low level of “diversity” coverage. And student press freedom was dealt another blow in February, when the Supreme Court refused to hear arguments in Hosty v. Carter. FIRE had written an amicus brief for that case, in which administrators at Governors State University censored a student newspaper that was critical of the administration.
“Le Moyne acted heavy-handedly, without even attempting to discuss its concerns with Fischler before firing him,” stated Lukianoff. “If independent student papers are to survive, students and faculty must resist administrative attempts to take control of the student press.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities.
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Reverend Charles Beirne, President, Le Moyne College: 315-445-4120; email@example.com