Thursday, November 13, 2014

Re: Gag Order in Sunshine State
         An article in the Nov. 13 issue of Inside Higher Ed  reports on an unfolding conflict at the 11,000-student Pensacola State College, where college President Ed Meadows has determined that the student newspaper cannot allow faculty members to speak with student journalists about contract negotiations,which are currently at an impasse. The faculty union, in turn, claims the college administration is harassing union members. Administration claims its only using a section of state code. However, IHE reports that code has been ruled unconstitutional by both a federal and a state court. 
         Meadows' rationale is that he worries that students will be "distracted" by the controversy.
         Don't students deserve to know more -- not less -- about their colleges? Why would more information be construed as "distracting" if we are teaching a generation to ask questions about the world around them? 
           Faculty are weighing in on the controversy. My .02, posted to IHE comments:
            "The most controversial topic to appear in our campus newspaper is a casual man-on-the-street report covering how many students in line in the cafeteria prefer decaf as opposed to regular coffee. Sometimes there might be the reworking of a student assignment on some aspect of international events. This can only be expected on a campus where the VP has to approve notices that appear on the few hallway bulletin boards that have survived our multi-million-dollar building remodel. We have 10,000 students per day in our hallways, and yet there is only one copy of the local paper, the "Denver Post," and one copy of the "New York Times" on our campus, and both stay inside the library. We have no newspaper boxes, because newspaper boxes aren't allowed on our campus (only the free zines nobody reads anyway). We have no novels or periodicals in our campus bookstore. They aren't allowed. Working professionals have no way of modeling the purchasing of newspapers or the reading of them in a community setting. Furthermore, we are barred from using campus e-mail and faculty mailboxes from communicating with our peers about our AAUP chapter or about our legislative efforts to change the poverty-level wages administration pays the adjuncts (half of our employees) who teach 85% of the courses our college offers. Neither the Fourth Estate nor the First Amendment have much importance on our campus. Administration's control of the student newspaper insidiously teaches young students that is the way it's supposed to be."