MARYLAND — The administration of Morgan State University agreedto reimburse the school’s student newspaper in March for advertising revenueit lost after school officials ordered the printer to delay delivery ofthe election-day issue.
Spokesman editor Kevin Howell also asked administrators to reprimandthe two people involved — the school’s student activities coordinatorand student government association president — for effectively censoringthe newspaper because of their suspicions that the issue contained candidateendorsements.
Howell said SGA president Julian Dash called him on the morning of March16 asking to see a copy of the newspaper. Howell refused, and he said Dashtold him he would not allow the newspaper to be delivered until the electionswere over. Howell said Dash was concerned that the issue contained candidateendorsements that could influence the election.
As it turns out, the newspaper did not contain any endorsements. Howellsaid this was because the editorial staff did not wish to support any ofthe candidates, not because The Spokesman did not have the rightto publish them.
Vivian Ryan, the university’s student activities coordinator, said sheinstructed one of her employees to ask the printer to delay delivery ofthe newspaper until 5 p.m. on Dash’s request. She said SGA regulationsprohibit the newspaper from publishing candidate endorsements. If she hadknown that the newspaper did not contain endorsements, she said “therewould have been no need to have called” the printer.
“[The newspaper] is paid for by student fees, and the rules for campaigningsay that neither the student government nor the newspaper can endorse acandidate,” Ryan said.
But Howell called the actions of Ryan and Dash illegal. According toHowell, the printing company said it had been told not to deliver the newspaperuntil the following day. Howell said he asked the printer to deliver thepapers on the day of the elections, but the printer was unable to do sobecause it had already started printing other jobs.
Spokesman staff members tried to publish the newspaper themselvesusing university copy machines but were only able to make 25 copies ofthe 18-page paper. They distributed the papers at the polling spot andposted a display of the articles on the college’s main campus.
Howell said he was angered by the actions of Ryan and Dash.
“I really think it just shows the ignorance, not just of [Dash], butalso of the student activities administrator, to think that they are allowedto do this and think they will just do it and not have any consequences,”Howell said. “For them not to understand that the role of the media isto publicize these candidates, to get the information out to the studentbody, or whoever our readers are, so they can make their decision basedon the information we bring to them, to me it just shows ignorance.”
Howell said the university’s vice president of student affairs apologizedfor the incident and agreed to reimburse The Spokesman for lost advertisingrevenue. Howell is awaiting discussions with the university’s presidentand attorney to determine whether Dash and Ryan will be reprimanded.
Overall, Howell said, he is satisfied with the administration’s responseto the incident.
“It’s something they had to do,” he said. “They really had no choice,clearly seeing they were wrong in the matter. I’m not going to say I givethem credit for doing it because it’s just what they’re supposed to do…. For them to respond and know that they’re wrong and pay back the ads,I guess that’s good, but it’s something that they’re supposed to do, soI wouldn’t give them any extra credit for it.”