Fight for your Rights: Student Press Under Attack

Recently, campus press freedoms have been in a tight spot.

While many campus papers such as The Collegian at Pennsylvania State University, The Daily Northwestern, and The GW Hatchet at The George Washington University are independent of the schools they cover, most college media outlets are affiliated with the universities they cover.

Independent papers are student run, privately funded, and put distance between the reporters and their subject. However, many public, private, religious and secular colleges have papers beholden university administrations according to a report by The American Association of University Professors and three other organizations who attempt to protect publications from censorship.

The report, released on Dec. 1, explained how student journalism is under attack. It cites an incident at the University of Missouri, which was again named the top journalism school in the country in a poll of news professionals, where an assistant professor of communication attempted to stop two young men from photographing and filming an on-campus protest, as well as various other examples of censorship.   

Apparently “it has become disturbingly routine for student journalists and their advisers to experience overt hostility that threatens their ability to inform the campus community and, in some instances, imperils their careers or the survival of their publications.” According to the report, these instances are routinely swept under the rug.

Post-election, it has become extremely important for universities to assert themselves on the side of the first amendment.

“Like our country, Boston University will flourish if we adhere to enduring principles that have defined our community for 150 years: respect for all people and their right to free expression, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for reasoned arguments and scientific findings,” Boston University President Robert Brown said in an interview with The Daily Free Press.

Statements like these show that some universities are still committed to transparency. Mount St.  Mary’s University President Tim Trainor has been adamant that a free press is necessary for an institution to function, according to the managing editor of The Mountain Echo, Rebecca Schisler.

“I don’t think free press is being treated at the Mount right now, but I do think it is a larger scale problem for many other universities,” Schisler said.

Slate recently published an article bringing attention to the censorship problem some student journalists face. Reporter Rebecca Schuman claims that misadvising of student papers is bad for democracy.

“We had no faculty adviser, received no course credit, and certainly enjoyed a mixed reputation on campus, but we loved every second of it, and some of us even grew up to be (more or less) journalists,” Schuman said, reflecting on her time at Vassar’s campus paper, The Miscellany News.

Publicity works both ways. Schuman notes the economic consequences of bad publicity, but also acknowledges that universities can benefit positively from committing themselves to open dialogues with campus newspapers.

Campus papers let students practice what they’re learning in classrooms and are excellent training centers for professional newsrooms. Student journalists, like the ones here at MediaFile, may very well be at the media helm in future generations. Where they get their start, and where they train at the university level, is key to the future of media.

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