School Fires Student Newspaper Adviser, Demands to See Articles Before Publication

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Guest by post by Bob Unruh 

Raises concerns about expressive freedoms not available there

A college has embarked on a scheme that appears to be intended to give administrators the power to censor a student newspaper, and the moves have caught the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

The organization explained that officials at Ashland University recently dismissed Ted Daniels, a longtime and beloved adviser to the student newspaper, The Collegian, from his responsibilities, and then almost immediately demanded articles be submitted to the administration for review before publication.

“If Ashland wants to be known as an institution where students learn ‘How to Think, not What to Think,’ it must allow The Collegian to publish without prior review, and must publicly reassure its community that it will respect press and academic freedom going forward,” the foundation explained in its report on the dispute, which it has entered with conversations with school officials about their actions.

“FIRE’s Student Press Freedom Initiative wrote Ashland to raise concerns that these events have grave implications for press and academic freedom at the university, only for Ashland to respond by claiming it supports expressive freedoms while continuing its attempts to justify restrictions on the student press. So we wrote Ashland again, reminding the university that ‘its commitment to expressive freedom is of no moment if Ashland does not stand ready to back those commitments with action,'” the foundation explained.

The problems in Ashland’s situation developed when the school gave notice to Daniels he could no longer teach journalism and serve as adviser to the student publican.

That decision as made because, according to school spokeswoman Katherine Brown, his “perspectives” on journalism were “problematic.”

Officials at the school had been in the process of delivering a series of complaints to Daniels because he was teaching students “too much investigative journalism.”

Then when the school demanded to see articles before publication, FIRE suggested that even though it is private, its commitment to the pro-free speech “Chicago Statement” meant students should be allowed expressive freedom.

Ashland president Carlos Campo later “offered only empty assurances,” the foundation said.

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