NORTH CAROLINA — Studenteditors and school officials at the University of North Carolina at Greensboroclashed after a Jan. 23 snowstorm prompted the chancellor to close theuniversity, leaving staff members’ hopes of publishing the studentnewspaper for the first time in months out in the cold.The first editionof the Carolinian was scheduled for release Jan. 27, but when editorscould not enter their office in the Elliott University Center to completeproduction of the paper and take it to the printer, they realized meeting theirdeadline would be impossible. Joe Wilbur, managing editor of theCarolinian, said staff members had every right to enter thebuilding.“ I don’t think it’s a plot against theCarolinian, and I don’t think [the administration] did it to usbecause we’re us, but I think it’s indicative of the disregard theyhave for students,” Wilbur said.Chancellor Patricia Sullivan saidher decision to deny access was based purely on liability issues and that shewould have said the same thing to anyone who asked to enter. “Iwas very upset with what I consider to be the misrepresentation of Mr.Wilbur’s decision in making it appear that there was some kind of issue ofprohibition or censorship involved, when the issue was the university was closedfor all of our normal functions,” Sullivan said.Wilbur said campusofficials have said all student groups with offices in the newly remodeledElliott Student Center will eventually be given swipe cards granting them24-hour access to the building. He said if the swipe card system had been inplace, access to the office would not have been questioned.But BruceMichaels, director of UNC-Greensboro Office of Student Life, said guidelines forthe swipe card system have not yet been finalized. “We justreopened the university center, which was closed the past two years, and we arelooking to grant 24-hour access to offices,” Michaels said.“It’s not complete at this point. We have issues that have to dowith swipe cards at entrances, when that is operational.”Theincident is one in a series of feuds between the Carolinian and theadministration. The Carolinian is governed by a university mediaboard, comprised of faculty, students and community members, that makesdecisions about the staff and budget of the newspaper. After decisions are made,it is up to the office of student life to see that they are implemented.Last spring, Wilbur was appointed executive editor by the media board.He alleges members of the office of student life tried to exert subtle pressureon the Carolinian’s content and were threatened by a newspaperstaff that wanted to take a harder hitting approach to campus coverage. Wilbursaid he also was upset about several mandates office of student life memberswanted to impose, including requirements that he meet with an office of studentlife representative on a regular basis. He said the person making editorialdecisions should not also be in charge of the administrative and businessaspects of the newspaper.Though Michaels would not give details, he saidWilbur failed to meet guidelines he agreed to when he signed hiscontract.Negotiations between the newspaper and the office of studentlife sidelined the paper last fall. Both eventually agreed that the governanceof student newspaper should undergo investigation, and a print media task force,comprised of faculty members, professionals and students, was implemented toresearch how other school newspapers comparable to UNC-Greensboro were governed.They also agreed to divide the position of executive editor into two positions— an executive editor to deal with administrative tasks and a managingeditor to handle content. The board appointed Valerie Marino as executive editorand Wilbur became managing editor.Jim Clark, an English professor andmember of the print media task force, said the schism between theCarolinian and the office of student life was widelyknown.“The reason I agreed to serve on the board again was itappeared to me there was definitely a standoff that really needed some people totry to come in and help get people communicating a little bit,” Clarksaid.Clark said the quality of the Carolinian has improveddramatically under Wilbur and other staff members, and readership of the 4,000circulation newspaper has increased. He said as a result, both theadministration and the newspaper staff want a successfulsemester.“I’ve talked to all the different parties, and itdoes seem that there’s a good bit of willingness on all sides to getthrough this impasse and make sure that we have a weekly newspaper on thecampus,” Clark said.Michaels said the Carolinian facesseveral challenges because the paper was not published in thefall.“My hunch is they may have a challenge in terms of level ofexperience in putting out a quality paper every day,” Michaels said.“In a very, very short period of time they have to print somethingthat’s credible, but can they create enough excitement on campus and aspirit of students who want to work on the paper?”Wilbur said hewas optimistic about the semester until the snowstorm Jan. 23.“There are going to be more problems, but the ruling philosophyright now is we are entitled to have a newspaper that is free of coercion fromthe university,” Wilbur said. “Any step that they make to get in ourway is going to make them look foolish.”The Jan. 27 edition of theCarolinian is available online [www.carolinianonline.com]. The firstprint edition is scheduled for Feb. 3.
Read previous coverage
- Editor seeks changes for media board The Report, Fall 2002