As The Atlantic reported in an article last week, many student journalists face serious threats to press freedom and freedom of speech at colleges nationwide. The article, “The Plot Against Student Newspapers?,” highlights the controversy Butler University administrators created earlier this year when they suddenly fired the much-loved advisor of The Butler Collegian, replacing her with a university spokesperson. The press made hay with the clear conflict of interest:
An Indianapolis Star writer, Suzette Hackey [sic], called the college’s decision a “bone-headed move.” Outcry from the national higher-education and journalism communities also ensued. “Freedom of the Press Under Fire at Butler University” declared a headline on the American Association of University Professors’ Academe blog. A Society of Professional Journalists committee member, Andrew Seaman, said in another blog post that Butler should be “ashamed and embarrassed.”
But, as The Atlantic points out, in an era where brand-conscious college administrators think student publications present an easy target, such “bone-headed” moves abound:
[Butler] is the latest in a string of student-newspaper controversies that have erupted in the past year. Others have played out at Northern Michigan University, Delta State University in Mississippi, and Muscatine Community College in Iowa.
FIRE has been watching these cases closely.
We reported on the threats to The North Wind at NMU and the lawsuit filed by Muscatine student journalists at The Calumet alleging administrators retaliated for critical reporting. We also helped Chelsea Boozer at the University of Memphis when the university administration violated the First Amendment rights of the student newspaper The Daily Helmsman by slashing its funding. After FIRE intervened, the university reversed the budget cuts.
You can read more about the people involved in these cases and the legal backdrop on The Atlantic’s website.
FIRE will continue to monitor reports of censorship at college newspapers.