Paper runs candidate endorsement, faces backlash
\nFLORIDA - Despite the fact the student newspaper had published\nsimilar items for the past five years, the student government\nat Florida A&M University decided this spring to take an active\nstance against the publication of a newspaper endorsement of a\ncampus presidential candidate.
The student government froze the Fauman's funds for\ntwo weeks and has tentatively reduced its funding for next year\nfrom $58,000 to $40,000.
"[The student government] has known we've done it for\nfive years; why all of a sudden is it a problem?" said Omar\nKelly, a staff writer on the paper.
"It was done responsibly," Kelly said in reference\nto the endorsement. "It's not political propaganda."\n
The student government and a campus judicial body both found\nthat the endorsement in the March 1 issue was in violation of\nthe code that covers all activities, student groups and organizations\nthat receive funding from student activity fees through the student\ngovernment. They said that the paper was at fault because it failed\nto clearly label the item as an opinion or endorsement.
Kelly argued that in the first paragraph, it stated that the\nendorsement had been put together by newspaper staff members with\ninvolvement from those who had produced the paper's special election\nissue.
The process the staff used to reach their decision included\nan interview of all candidates for president, a weighing of their\nplatforms and background checks, according to Kelly.
When the special issue with the endorsement came out, one candidate,\nthen a senator, brought the case up to the judicial body, and\nthe paper was found to be in violation of the activities code.\nBoth the student senate and the judicial branch agreed to freeze\nthe newspaper's funding. The freeze lasted for two weeks.
Kelly said the paper still continued to print, as it works\nwith its printer on a credit basis, paying them only twice a year.\n
"But money wasn't the issue," said Kelly. "Principle\nwas. They were trying to govern through the silencing of the paper."\n
After the freeze, the student government audited the paper\nand found it received revenue from advertisements, and therefore,\nfelt that its budget should be cut.
The current stance of the student government is that the newspaper\nshould go independent. Kelly said that some of the presidential\ncandidates even ran with this as part of their platform.
Kelly says the staff agrees and would go independent, but that\nit cannot happen overnight. Kelly said it would take years to\nset up the structure for the paper to be independent from campus\nfunding. \n
reports, Spring 1999