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The Reporter

September 2000
Volume 5, Issue 1

Episode I
Fear and Loathing in the Provost’s Office
William Lawbaugh

From the get-go, I figured it would be a rocky road.

I knew it for sure when my Provost called me into her office over Spring Break 2000 to plop a nasty little "letter of reprimand" into my personnel file. The letter was written to address my failure to control and censor our student editors. To get my full attention, the Provost unilaterally decided to withhold $3,806 from my salary until I can prove, to her alone, that I become "a responsible teacher of journalism."

"But…but…but, what are you teaching students when you try to muzzle them?" I stammered. "You’re teaching them tyranny," I answered myself, "not responsible journalism."

The stern, greatly feared Provost did not even flinch when I tried to defend and justify my efforts to teach them full responsibility for what they decide to print or not print, nor did she swoon when I waxed eloquently on the value and importance of a free press in an open society. Instead, she insisted on a perfectly "safe," a perfectly edited (grammar, spelling and punctuation) biweekly newspaper that no one would read or take seriously.

Our Provost is a graduate in English literature from the University of Virginia and an ex-nun who once "advised" a monthly paper at a girls’ college of 800 poor souls in Kansas. When I asked her if she ever insisted on pre-reading any student copy, she replied: "Every word."

Prior review is, of course, a form of prior restraint, I had learned at Ball State University from my mentor, Dr. Louis E. Ingelhart, I was fresh out from University of Missouri after picking up two degrees from St. Louis University.

My Irish redhead wife is a work-at-home mother of seven children, so the $3,806 penalty stung and stunk.

What did the student editors print in The Mountain Echo, founded in 1879, at the oldest independent Catholic College in America? The Provost of Mount Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, pointed to four "offensive" items: "sexually explicit" joke pick-up lines and valentines, a holocaust denial ad, and, curiously, a news story on water damage in a student dormitory that somehow made the college look bad. I decided to appear to President George Houston.

NEXT EPISODE: "Houston, We Have A Problem"

SCJ to Sponsor Symposium on First Amendment at MSM

An all-star lineup of First Amendment experts will descend upon Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., on October 18 for a symposium on human freedom that may have national ramifications.

"Our First Freedoms" is organized by the editor of the campus biweekly newspaper, Justin Moor, from Bowling Green, Ohio, and Kelley Wilson, news editor of The Mountain Echo, from Clarksville, Md. The paper has been fighting off administration attempts of censorship since February of this year. The symposium is set for 7 p.m., October 18, in the Mount’s Lewis Auditorium.

Paul K. McMasters, one of the nation’s leading experts on First Amendment and free press issues, will speak on "Freedom of the Press." McMasters is former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists who served as associate editorial director of USA Today and then as executive director of The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He is now First Amendment Ombudsman at Freedom Forum, which is headquartered in Arlington, Va.

Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center since 1985, will speak on "Freedom of the Student Press." Goodman earned his law degree from Duke and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. SPLC is the nation’s only legal assistance agency devoted exclusively to educating student journalists about their rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment.

Both Goodman and McMasters are scheduled to meet earlier in the day with Mount President George H. Houston and Provost Carol L. Hinds.

Rosemary Agnes McDermott is also an attorney, one who teaches intellectual law at the National Emergency Training Center. A member of the Mensa Society, she specializes in discrimination in the workplace issues and will speak on "Freedom of Expression," especially as it applies in a private college. She has one doctoral degree from U. of Virginia and her juris doctorate from Regent School of Law. Her B.A. is from Immaculata College (Pa.).

Martin D. Snyder is Associate Secretary and program director for Academic Freedom and Professional Standards with the American Association of University Professors in Washington. He will speak on "Academic Freedom." Snyder has degrees from Loyola College in Baltimore and The Catholic University of America. He specializes in Catholic and private colleges at AAUP, having served as provost of St. Joseph College (Ct.) and president of Molloy College in New York.

Rev. J. Michael Beers is currently a Fellow at the Atlas Institute in Northern Virginia and an active U.S. Air Force chaplain in Maryland. He is well known to the Mount community as a longtime professor of Scripture, spirituality and Church Fathers, having taught 20 different courses during his tenure at the Mount. Most recently, he was on the staff at The 

Josephenum Pontifical Institute, and he is widely regarded as a defender of intellectual and economic freedom. He will speak on "Freedom of Religion."

Nick Hentoff is the new legal director of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit group in Philadelphia devoted to free speech, religious freedom, due process and academic freedom. FIRE was founded by Boston civil liberties attorney Harvey A. Silverglate and Alan Charles Kors, a Penn law professor, co-authors of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses." Hentoff will speak on "Freedom of Speech."

The First Freedoms symposium is designed to raise awareness of student and faculty rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, especially for those who learn and teach at small, private colleges.

"It is often thought that students and professors at private universities lose or give up some of their human rights and responsibilities of free expression and self-determination," says Kelley Wilson. "We question that assumption and hope to learn otherwise from these distinguished experts."

Justin Moor adds, "This kind of open forum on the First Amendment has never happened before at any Catholic college that we know of." He has invited students from nearby private, Methodist and Lutheran colleges, and all other people who are interested in attending.

Speakers and the press will meet for a news conference at 5 p.m. in The Writing Center at Mount St. Mary’s, the oldest independent Catholic college in America, located just south of Gettysburg and 75 miles north of Washington and west of Baltimore.

Each speaker will talk for about eight minutes, followed by discussion and a reception in the Science Building lobby, sponsored by The Society for Collegiate Journalists and other campus media organizations.

A printed booklet of remarks from the speakers is planned for distribution to other small, private colleges across the country through SCJ headquarters in Clarion, Pa., to foster and encourage greater awareness and understanding of The First Amendment.

For more information and directions, call or email Justin at (301) 447-5422 or Kelley at (301) 447-5688.

In the SCJ Spotlight: Bill Ruehlmann

I’m Bill Ruehlmann, the recently elected second vice president of SCJ.

I’m a professor of journalism at Virginia Wesleyan College in Northfolk/Virgina Beach, Virginia, where we established an SCJ chapter in 1995. That chapter won the Edward E. McDonald Award and produced Melissa Harris, the reigning SCJ National Student Journalist of the Year. The Marlin Chronicle, VWC’s campus newspaper, is the glue that holds our community together—and the match that keeps it hopping.

My background is in print, coming to college in 1993 after 16 years as a feature writer at the Virginian-Pilot, the daily to which I still contribute a book column. My goal for SCJ is to help expand the national membership significantly, for the good of aspiring young journalists and the organization that serves them.

I believe strongly in SCJ because I have seen the difference it has made in the lives of students—indeed, in my own life as well—and the only way to repay such a profound influence is to pass it on.

Bill Ruehlmann

Welcome to a new college year – a fine one for SCJ.

Last year we were anticipating our Biennial SCJ National Convention. Our delegates assembled in NYC in March and did their work. Our path is clear for the next two years. We have a new addition to the National Council: A Third Vice President, and we have a plan for regionalization. New Constitution/Handbooks are being printed, and distribution will begin in October. Clarion University’s College Press Day is scheduled for November 11, a Saturday. Clarion will be the site for SCJ’s Region I delegates meeting as well. Other chapters will be invited to host similar events.

Included with The Reporter are updated Contest Rules: December 31, 2000 is the deadline – plenty of time, but form a committee now to begin assembling your National Contest entries. Mary Jennings of the University of Northern Alabama is the National Contest Director so make a note of the address change. Remember, this is SCJ’s National Contest, serving its membership; it is the only national student contest professionally judged.

One other change: the SCJ delegates voted to raise lifetime membership dues from $25 to $30 – a modest increase, and the first in more than a decade. They also added a chapter reactivation fee: $15. The chartering fee is $25. There are no entry fees for the contest.

My goal this year is Recruitment and Retention. It’s time for SCJ to grow. I want to triple membership before the next SCJ National Convention. Take this as a challenge and commitment. Our national organization is well positioned, and there is much we can do for our membership, our respective institutions and a free and flourishing student press.

Art Barlow

Congratulations To Our Newest Members:

  • Hastings College, NE — 14 new members

  • Southeastern Louisiana University, LA — 10 new members

  • Special Congratulations to our newest Medal of Merit recipient, Jo-Anna K. Burnett from Southeastern Louisiana University.


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Clarion University of Pennsylvania
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