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Quinnipiac officials threaten to ban campus SPJ chapter after helping independent newspaper

September 19, 2008

CONNECTICUT -- The Quad News, an online-only news publication at Quinnipiac University, is discovering that operating an independent newspaper does not come easy. Quad News editors say resistance from administrators has caused a lack of communication between the newspaper and university officials, making the online journalists' status insecure.

Without any support from the administration, the Quad News sought support in a likely ally, the Society of Professional Journalists. As administrators have been openly hostile to the Quad News, interaction between the Quad News and SPJ led the administration to forward their attack to the SPJ.

Quinnipiac Student Center Director Daniel W. Brown told the student chapter of SPJ that its status as a registered student organization on campus was in danger if SPJ continued interacting with the Quad News.

The threat came after the Quad News met in a room reserved for and by the SPJ. The national chapter of SPJ responded to Quinnipiac's threat in a letter to Quinnipiac President John Lahey.

SPJ said it was concerned that administrators at Quinnipiac University threatened to ban the SPJ. The letter emphasized that banning the SPJ would hurt the university's reputation in relation to First Amendment rights for students, faculty and staff.

Jaclyn Hirsch, president of the Quinnipiac SPJ, is also the managing editor for the Quad News. She said that her organization promotes freedom of the press and supports student journalists.

"In regards to the Quad News, SPJ supports them just as we do any other student group," said Hirsch. "SPJ is an inclusive organization, which applauds the diversity of media outlets on campus."

The Yale Daily News published an editorial with the headline "QU officials deserve F." The editorial listed Quinnipiac President Lahey's number asking for students to "tell him what you think."

Lynn Bushnell, vice president of public * affairs released a memo in response to the Yale Daily News editorial.

"It soon became clear that the real intentions of the students involved in this online-only paper/ blog were decidedly hostile: they aggressively sought to undermine the continued existence of a University-supported newspaper for students," said Bushnell in the memo.

The memo, sent to all Quinnipiac students in an e-mail, accused the Quad News of trying to put the Chronicle, the official school newspaper, out of business and said that the university never violated the students First Amendment rights.

The Quad News responded the next day on its Web site. The response denied the university's claim of trying to put the Chronicle out of business and highlighted that "the lack of dialogue on campus has led to serious misunderstandings."

While the semester continues, Braff looks forward to publishing online -- though not abandoning the idea of a print edition. The paper hopes that through donations and online advertising it will raise the money needed to consider a print publication.

The Yale Daily News, along with other publications around Connecticut, has been aggressively reporting on the Quad News.

Andrew Mangino, editor in chief of the Yale Daily News, said that the paper covers the surrounding community as well as universities in close proximity because the Quad News issue is relevant to student journalists.

The Quad News formed after editors from the Chronicle decided to part ways last year and start an independent news site covering Quinnipiac University.

Bushnell declined to comment on the story beyond the contents of the memo.

By Erica Walters, SPLC staff writer

CORRECTION, 11/14: An earlier version of this article said Bushnell was vice president of student affairs. The SPLC regrets the error. Return to story

For More Information:
  • A new year and a new path Report, 8/20/2008
  • Quinnipiac U. editors leave en masse to start independent Web outlet News Flash, 5/2/2008
  • Panel: Make student paper at Quinnipiac U. independent News Flash, 4/11/2008
  • Conn. editor meets with administrators on policies restricting paper's Web site, access to officials News Flash, 12/6/2007

    © 2008 Student Press Law Center

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