In Support of (Quad) News
By The Dartmouth Editorial Board
Published on Friday, October 31, 2008
Earlier this week, Quinnipiac University garnered national attention once again for yet another attack on student journalism on its campus. Last year, the university prohibited the student newspaper, The Quinnipiac Chronicle, from posting news on its web site before its print edition was published and reviewed by administrators looking to censor content that casts the university in a negative light. In response, the paper's editorial staff had no choice but to leave in protest. Those staff members subsequently established Quad News, an independent online newspaper. The university has tried to crush this new publication with even greater vigor, and has placed a gag order on administrators, coaches and even student athletes, prohibiting them from speaking to Quad News.
Quinnipiac University's actions represent a ludicrous imposition on the freedom of speech of the students themselves, as well as a gross violation of the campus community's freedom to information.
In response to the student journalists' firm stance on freedom of expression, The New York Times quoted Lynn Bushnell, the university's vice president for public affairs, saying, "Student leaders, especially those in paid positions, are expected to generally be supportive of university policies." We disagree. Student leaders -- journalists or otherwise -- should take a critical stance toward university policies when appropriate, acting as advocates for the student body and using their clout to influence the policies in ways most beneficial to the entire university community. Because of the insulated nature of most colleges and universities, free student media is essential to fostering debate and covering issues that might not otherwise find a forum in outside media outlets.
Perhaps most egregiously, Quinnipiac has threatened to banish its chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for its alleged cooperation with Quad News. This speaks of a disturbing fear of student journalism, and we can't help but ask what the administration has to hide. While it is one thing to seek control over a university-sponsored publication like The Chronicle, it is quite another to censure individuals based solely on their association with an independent campus voice. The university's actions raise the question of why information would need to be so tightly controlled on a college campus; under such circumstances, how can students be expected to learn about the importance of free speech and sharing of information, two principles that should lie at the very heart of an academic community?
Fortunately, nothing quite as troubling has occurred recently at Dartmouth, and in 2006, the College was even recognized by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for its commitment to allowing free speech on campus. But given the prevalence of hazy half-truths and propaganda on both sides of the recent alumni governance debate, it is clear that we all still have work to do.