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Editors resign over private college's censorship of student paper in Illinois

February 22, 2008

ILLINOIS -- The editor in chief and two other editors at Lewis University's student paper, The Flyer, resigned today amid disagreements with school administrators over control of content.

Former Editor in Chief Pete Nickeas said he decided to resign after Angela Durante, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, decided the paper could not publish the names of students or community members involved in alleged criminal activity, could not publish the word "nigger" in a news story about the word appearing on a flier on campus, and could not run a story about a university trustee being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission without Durante's approval.

The bi-weekly paper had only begun focusing on hard news and campus security last year, and there were no university student media policies in place dealing with the above incidents, Nickeas said. Lewis University, a private college, acts as owner and publisher of all student media, according to the Campus Media Handbook. Durante had the power to make those decisions until the Media Advisory Board met to discuss policy changes, Nickeas said.

"I don't feel (I would be) responsible in holding back public information from reporting," Nickeas said. "I'm not trying to lead a crusade or anything, but I'd rather not play by their rules."

Durante did not return calls from the Student Press Law Center on Friday afternoon, nor could the school's media relations department reach any other administrators for comment.

Opinions editor Mike Howlett said he resigned in part because he could not print an editorial about the university trustee under investigation by the SEC.

Howlett said the paper has "to be critical of the school to advance the watchdog function."

"It's outrageous to have a newspaper and pull stuff like this. It goes against everything they teach us from day one," he said.

Senior layout editor Erin Devers also resigned, Nickeas said. New editors will be chosen to fill the vacant positions in the next few weeks.

By Emilie Yam, SPLC staff writer

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© 2008 Student Press Law Center

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