Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NY Times To Quinnipiac Bosses: Stop Hassling Student Journalists

October 29, 2008
NY Times

Curbing Speech At Quinnipiac

People who follow politics know Quinnipiac University as the home of the polling institute that bears its name. But lately it has been making a name for itself — a bad name — for a different reason.

The university has gone to unusual lengths this semester to try to curb the activities of student journalists who are running an independent, online newspaper that is affiliated with the school and called Quad News. Students began the upstart newspaper over frustration with the administration’s attempts to control the official student newspaper, a common enough conflict between students and university officials.

But Quinnipiac’s reaction was anything but ordinary. First, the university tried to stonewall student attempts to report stories by imposing a gag order on administrators, coaches and athletes. Then last month, the institution, in writing, threatened to ban from campus the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a nationwide media advocacy group of working journalists that includes about 200 student chapters.

Apparently the university became irate when an information booth for the professional journalists’ group on campus included a sign-up sheet inviting students to become involved with Quad News. The university sent a letter to Jaclyn Hirsch, the student president of Quinnipiac’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, threatening to kick the group off campus if it continued any “interactions or endorsements” with Quad News. That’s a difficult task, considering that many student reporters, including Ms. Hirsch, are members of the group.

Such intimidation does not speak well of Quinnipiac’s commitment to freedom of speech, open-mindedness or academic inquiry. Instead of encouraging the students for their remarkable initiative, the school tried to retaliate against them for resisting its control and not toeing the line.

Students say that the university lifted the gag order last week, making it easier for them to interview administrators and athletes. That’s a good start. But Quinnipiac should take the next necessary step and withdraw its threat against the school’s chapter of the professional journalists’ organization — and put it in writing.

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