Private college editor fights for her rights
Student resists censor by issuing ultimatum
TEXAS — Battling what the student newspaper at the University of Incarnate Word described as censorship by the administration, the editor delivered the university president an ultimatum this fall and printed it in the newspaper.
The issue began last spring when administrators told the editor and assistant editor of the Logos they could not print the name of a faculty member who was under investigation for sexual harassment.
Jennifer Walsh, then assistant editor and currently editor of the Logos, said she and John Tedesco, then the newspaper’s editor, pointed to the publication’s by-laws which state, “The student press should be free of censorship in advance of copy and its editors and managers should be free to develop their own editorial policies and news coverage.” Following the administration’s announcement, the entire Logos staff resigned and did not publish another edition until the fall 1997 semester.
“We felt they were not following procedure and we did not want to be a part of that,” Walsh said.
In the Logos’ Sept. 10 edition, the first issue since the spring, Walsh published an editorial about the censorship occurring last spring. Along with the editorial, Walsh published a letter that she asked Louis Agnese, university president, to sign. Walsh said she put the letter in the newspaper, instead of giving it to him personally, to make everyone aware of the situation.
“Everybody needed to know that policies just weren’t going to be changed like that,” she said. “Nobody knew what was going on behind closed doors. It was important for them to see we would set the record straight.” Hinojosa said the university was not trying to censor the student newspaper, but rather, protect it. He said school administrators consulted with attorneys who said printing the name of the faculty member under investigation would be libelous.
Hinojosa pointed out that the students were still allowed to print the article, which could have been potentially damaging to the university’s reputation, and were told only to leave out the name.
The student newspaper also consulted an attorney, who said printing the faculty member’s name would not be libelous.
Several members of the University of Incarnate Word’s administration and faculty had commented on the record to the newspaper about the sexual harassment investigation.
Walsh said she thinks the university was trying to protect itself, not the newspaper.
“I think they were afraid of what we were going to say because they didn1t take the proper avenues in this case,” Walsh said.
Hinojosa also said that since the private university is the publisher of the newspaper, it has a publisher’s right to control what appears in the newspaper, since it would be held liable for the newspaper1s content.
“We want to give the newspaper all the freedom except when it comes to libel,” Hinojosa said.
As of now, Agnese has not signed the letter appearing in the Logos and the student newspaper and the university have not reached an agreement.
reports, Winter 1997-98