U.T. Tyler Administration Accused of Stifling Freedom of Press - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/8/02 - Tyler

U.T. Tyler Administration Accused of Stifling Freedom of Press

It started with an opinion article in the student newspaper at the University of Texas at Tyler... asking whether the money donated to build a new clock tower on campus might have been better spent. Now staffers of the "Patriot" newspaper say administration is setting the grounds for what they believe is censorship.

 

"We are asking questions, we are filing open records requests, and find out stuff that maybe they don't want us to find out." Now patriot staffers say UT Tyler administration is punishing them for their tougher journalism.

 

"They are trying to control the content of this newspaper and that is not right."  A board of only senior administrators will now hire and fire staffers... and determine quote- "character and policies" of the paper.  Power students have had along with adviser Vanessa Curry, who now has learned she won't be Adviser anymore.  Staffers say the solid journalism she teaches is why the paper is now award winning.

 

"The students have come back to me and said, 'administrators haven't told me what I need to know' and as a last resort I have showed them the laws pertaining to open records and how to file an open records request."  Journalists do that to get public information made public.

   

"Real journalists don't write stories that are going to improve, the image of the university, they write stories that are newsworthy, whether that be good or bad."  Channel 7 was told today that senior administrators were on-campus today but were not available to speak at all with us.  That includes provost Dr. David O'Keeffe who did speak to the Dallas

Morning news about students filing open records requests.  He said quote "you should bear in mind, I don't believe students should be getting into that. They aren't prepared to do that. They can do a lot of harm."

  

"Sometimes it takes faculty and administrators a long time to finally adjust to the fact that they're dealing with adults, not children." Communications chair Ken Casstevens says staffers, some older, some younger, are quite capable.  But for those getting their feet wet in journalism, might it make them back out.

 

“Will that affect their scholarships, will that affect whether they're picked to be on the staff?"  Melissa says when it comes to projecting a good image, that's not a journalists job, but it could be the patriot's future.

 

"They see this as a corporation, a money making corporation, and anything that threatens that or gets in it's way they're going to put a stop to it."

 

Provost David O'Keeffe did tell the Dallas Morning News the fact that Adviser Vanessa Curry's contract won't be renewed has nothing to do with tough reporting.  He said it just sometimes "happens."  The student press law center says the students on the patriot staff may very well have a good legal case, claiming violation of their first amendment rights.

 

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