Hofstra journalists fight for rights
Investigative report prompts confiscation of party footage
NEW YORK — Journalism instructors at Hofstra University said they are completing plans to make sure that the censorship of their student media does not happen again.
This comes after public safety officers ordered student television news journalists to turn over their cameras and video while covering a campus party on an outdoor field in April.
Gary Kreps, dean of the School of Communications, said the reporters were censored by administrators of the private university while investigating underage drinking for the “News and Views” TV show.
“It was a situation where students were covering an event on campus, and people didn’t want to be filmed by photographers, so they informed public safety officers who took their cameras,” Kreps said. “I would say that that’s censorship.”
Soon after the incident, Kreps said the officers apologized to the journalists and returned the tapes after being informed that their actions were unacceptable. The show aired, unedited, a few days later.
But Richard Block, spokesman for the university, said because Hofstra is a private institution, the students had a right to decline being photographed.
“Private groups on campus who sponsored the event did not want pictures of the activities — and public safety honored that,” he said. “We respect the wishes of private groups. If they don1t want cameras at their event, and agree to prevent it, then it is our policy to respect those students who sponsored the event.”
It is this university policy that student journalists and their advisers, such as Bob Green, coordinator of the journalism department, said they are working to change.
“How can you claim to be private when you1re publicly getting drunk?” Green asked.
The plan, he explained, is to submit for approval a new policy to the university senate in the fall which would give student journalists more freedom to report on campus.
“We are putting together a collection of Bill of Rights, so to speak, which would be reduced to a card like the ones shown in court by professional journalists,” he said. “They can produce it anytime and read it off.”
Kreps said the proposed “Freedom of the Press Card” policy would enable students from the campus TV station and newspaper, The Chronicle, to participate in investigative reporting without the fear of being censored.
Although there have not been too many problems recently, Michael O’Connor, managing editor of the newspaper, said administrators have a history of trying to control the contents of his publication.
“We expect the guidelines that our professors are helping work on to go well with the university heads,” he said. “The professors are good at bridging the gap with the administrators and are able to take our message to them.”
However, Block said the policy would infringe on the rights of the average student.
“What about rights for private students?” he asked. “This may be my personal view, but I don’t want a paparazzi running around campus getting into everyone’s private lives.”
Fall 1998, Hofstra University, reports