Outcry concerning controversial cartoon temporarily haltspaper's production

PENNSYLVANIA – A cartoon depicting allegations of school misconduct contributed to a halt of the presses at Neumann College in Aston.

Editors of The Campus Press, the school’s newspaper, published an editorial cartoon in the Oct. 7 edition that caused an uproar with school officials at the Catholic school of 1,500. In response to the cartoon, school administrators threatened to shut the bi-weekly publication down unless they were granted rights to review the paper prior to publication.

The cartoon that started the controversy portrayed a university lacrosse player mingling with a school administrator. The administrator offers the player an “athletic, I mean, academic scholarship,” despite the fact the student’s “shoe size seems to be bigger that (his) IQ.”

Neumann College is a Division III NCAA school, and therefore is not allowed to grant athletic scholarships. The cartoonist behind the drawing told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he drew the cartoon to react to rumors that the school was breaking the rules.

Student journalists protested the college’s response, and the newspaper and the school came to an agreement a little more than a week later to form a student-faculty advisory board for the newspaper, as well as a mission statement.

In exchange, the school administration agreed to nix its demand for prior review. Since the agreement, the paper has seen no threat of prior review, wrote Campus Press newsroom manager Anne Marie Ketchum in an e-mail in December.

“We will continue to print newspapers with no threat of prior review,” Ketchum stated. “I feel that myself, along with the coeditors, have seen this as a learning process. The students and faculty of the college were very supportive through the entire situation.”

However, Terry Gleeson, who teaches the newspaper course, said the school is also making another change: they plan on implementing a rotating adviser system.

Gleeson, who has taught at the school for three-and-a-half years as a de facto adviser, said he will not be teaching the course again anytime soon because of the college’s new adviser policy. According to Gleeson, teachers will teach the newspaper course for one or two semesters at a time before they are shuffled in-and-out. That means it is Gleeson’s turn to go.

“The proposed system, as I understand it, doesn’t sound very viable to me: I think the newspaper needs an adviser – an actual person that students can come to on a day-to-day basis,” said Gleeson in an e-mail. “[I] think that an adviser/journalism teacher gets good at his/her job by doing it regularly and for an extended period, as opposed to being “rotated” through it every couple of semesters.”

At the time of the controversy, Katrina Acey, coeditor of the student paper, told the Philadelphia Inquirer via E-mail that, “[i]t would not be a student paper,” if administrators could preview the content.

In the same article, administrators argued they had the right to preview because it’s part of a journalism course, and the paper is funded through the university.