The National Press Photographers Association has joined FIRE, the Student Press Law Center, and the numerous others who have criticized East Carolina University (ECU) for its firing of newspaper adviser Paul Isom. As has now been widely reported, Isom was fired by ECU following the publication of unedited photos of a streaker at an ECU football game published by The East Carolinian, for which Isom served as adviser. FIRE quickly responded to this blatant assault on the newspaper’s rights with a letter to ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard last Friday.
NPPA President Sean D. Elliot writes in the NPPA’s letter:
It is our understanding that the East Carolinian, while funded by student activity fees at the university, enjoys editorial independence. Rather than providing a "teachable moment” for students, actions such as this do just the opposite by chilling free speech.
As an institution of higher learning we would expect that the ECU administration would know better.
This sentiment is shared by FIRE and a rapidly growing contingent of free speech advocates. ECU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Virginia Hardy, meanwhile, has issued a statement defending its firing of Isom, asking “all advocacy groups and the public to trust our internal process, which has been deliberate, correct and legal.” Shortly here on The Torch, we’ll review the many reasons why ECU does not deserve to be taken at its word.