American U. approves new freedoms
D.C. school removes censorship language from regulations
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the student press at American University no longer need to worry about being censored by the school’s administration.
The University Senate, the body that regulates academics, voted in March to withdraw all written rules that govern the student media from the academic regulations. The issue arose when the body was determining changes in the document that had not been amended in several years.
The new changes will allow the student newspaper, The Eagle, the student television station, ATV, and the student radio station, WAVU, to cover campus events without worrying about censorship from the administration.
The Eagle staff considers itself independent because it receives no student fees, according to Editor in chief Jennifer Gauck. However, the newspaper uses university space and equipment. In an effort to censor the newspaper, the administration could evict them from their office space.
The Eagle came under fire in the spring of 1997 when students accused the newspaper of being racist due an editorial about student government elections. University President Benjamin Ladner harshly criticized the newspaper at the time.
School of Communications Dean Sanford Ungar spoke at the University Senate’s meeting, and he said that he felt the regulation of student media was “inappropriate.”
“I don’t think this university needs to come forward with a noble idea of what the student media ought to do any more than the United States government needs to come forward [for the professional media],” he said. “I don’t think there should be any guidelines. It’s certainly not the kind of system that we train our students to work in.”
Members of the student media applauded the move of the senate.
“When we found out about it, we were extremely happy,” Mike Rosellini, director of news and operations at ATV, said. “I think it is the right thing to do. Even though we are a private university, it sets the standard for other private universities.”
Rosellini said that he believes that censoring the media at AU would hinder the learning process. He said that students need to work with a free press on campus in order to fully learn about the workings of the news media.
Not everyone thinks the University Senate’s ruling was a good one, though. Michael Ellis, director of student activities, said that the media guidelines need to be revisited, but not eliminated.
“Media does have a responsibility; there does need to be guidelines that the media groups can agree with. . .along with the administration,” he said. “I don’t think the media can represent American University and be a part of the university community, and at the same time ignore community values and the best interests of the institution.”
reports, Spring 1998