Oversight policy moves through U. of Texas system





TEXAS — A publications policy that could require prior review by school officials over the student newspaper at the University of Texas at Pan American is still working its way through the university system.

David Waltz, the editor of the student newspaper Pan American, has tried to work with the school to shape a policy that would discourage censorship. But the policy recommended by the school last fall still includes a provision that would allow the university-appointed newspaper adviser to “withhold copy for 48 hours pending the appeals process….” Even with this provision, Waltz believes the policy will not be approved by university administrators because it does not offer enough “control” for school officials.

While Waltz has not been censored, he fears an ill-conceived policy would have dire effects on future editors.

Waltz has discussed with the American Civil Liberties Union and other student editors across the state the possibility of filing a class action suit against the university system if a final prior review policy at his school is approved. Other university system schools that have had questions raised over prior review policies are at Austin, El Paso and Arlington.

In anticipation of a potential lawsuit, Waltz says he has been banned from using university telephones. Unless he pays for it himself, he cannot contact other student editors, the American Civil Liberties Union or the Student Press Law Center.

Robert Rollins, the newspaper’s adviser, admitted “[Waltz’s] calls will be looked at.” While Rollins says the student cannot call the ACLU (because of the potential lawsuit), he did say Waltz could contact the Student Press Law Center for “separate” issues.

Ironically, at another Texas university, a content control issue may benefit the power of the student editor in chief. At the University of Texas at Austin, Tara Copp was in arbitration with the publications review board over an ad she did not want run in The Daily Texan.

The ad is a personal attack against a former football coach and the namesake of the school’s stadium. The university does not want the ad to run and is supporting Copp. A publications review board made up of students and faculty claims it has the final say and they voted to accept it. Copp contacted a lawyer and says she is prepared to fight to “protect the newspaper’s editorial control.”

The controversy subsided when the potential advertisers pulled their ad.


reports, Winter 1996-97