La. college president halts article on faculty member’s firing

LOUSIANNA — The president of Loyola University at NewOrleans ordered the student newspaper last week to delete an article thatreported that the head of the school’s music program was fired.PresidentBernard Knoth said the article was conjecture and, as the publisher of TheMaroon, he had the right to remove misleading material, a universityspokesperson confirmed. Editors said, however, that the faculty member’sdeparture was newsworthy. And they are now calling into question the policy atthe private Jesuit university that provides the president authority over thepaper and, subsequently, liability for any inaccurate content.TheMaroon article reported that Scott Fredrickson, the Conrad N. Hilton EminentScholar in Music Industry Studies, was escorted off campus by police two weeksago. University officials refused to comment on his departure so the newspapermade that the angle for their article, titled “Chair’s firing shrouded insecrecy.” The newspaper quoted several faculty members and students, most ofwhom wished to remain anonymous, about the reasons behind Fredrickson’s untimelydeparture, editors say.Maroon adviser Liz Scott said Knoth calledher May 8 while the next day’s edition of the weekly paper was at the printer.According to Scott, Knoth said he was worried that if the newspaper reportedFredrickson was fired the music chair could use that against the university ifhe filed a lawsuit. Scott said Knoth initially told her to remove any referencesto him being fired but later that day ordered her to remove the entirearticle.”[The student journalists] were going after a really good storyand they were told they couldn’t print it,” Scott said. “Administrators don’tunderstand the passion of journalists.”Knoth could not be reachedfor comment, but he told The Times-Picayune that although thearticle was well-written and well-edited, “it was certainly misleading and frommy point of view inflammatory.”Because it was just conjecture and thelast issue of the year, I honestly felt it was inappropriate to publish it,”Knoth told the paper.Kristine David Lelong, director of public affairs,denied that Knoth was worried the newspaper’s article could cause the universityto be sued by Fredrickson. She said the administration did not comment aboutFredrickson’s departure to The Maroon because personnel issues arekept confidential to respect the privacy rights of individuals.”What hehad to do was basically balance the rights of The Maroon with the rightsof the people involved. And the best thing at the time [was] to pull thearticle,” Lelong said.Fredrickson was not reached for comment, but heconfirmed to The Times-Picayune that he has left Loyola. His departurecomes just days after the paper ran a vaguely threatening commentary by him onApril 25. In “On the Record,” a weekly column written by a faculty member,Fredrickson contemplated the karmic law of cause and effect in response to, whathe said, “unfortunate actions from people whom I respected and thought werefriends.”He ended the piece by saying, “I hope my ‘friends’ will keep aneye over their shoulder. The karmic principle of ‘what goes around comes around’is on the way.”A few days after the piece ran, editor Robert Wardlawsaid students witnessed Fredrickson being escorted by campus police out of thecommunications music complex, where The Maroon is located.Wardlaw said he was “pretty livid” when he heard Knoth quashed the May 9article. After editors rushed to replace the Fredrickson article so theycould distribute the paper on Friday, a group of four editors went to Knoth’soffice just before 5 p.m. on May 8. The five-minute exchange turned ugly. Knothtold The Times-Picayune the students were “verging on being verballyharassing.”Sports editor Nick Boeglin, said he and three of hiscolleagues asked Knoth why he pulled the story. He said Knoth told them they didnot know all the facts and asked for the names of their anonymoussources.”We said as journalists we knew better than to disclose sources.At that point [Knoth] said ‘I’ve had it, get out, transfer if you want,'”Boeglin said.The conflict did not end there. After editors noticed thereprinted edition erroneously carried a secondary headline left from theFredrickson piece, they picked up all copies that had been distributed and putthem in the newspaper office. Boeglin said a small group of university officialscame to the newsroom and guarded the newspapers as they boxed them up and putthem in a garbage truck.”It was odd to have these newspapers confiscatedby the university president and his people and delivered someplace where theywould never be seen again,” Boeglin said. “It was an odd sensation. By then itdidn’t surprise anyone.”The corrected version of the newspaper, withoutthe Fredrickson piece or any of its headlines, was distributed on campus thisweek. On page 3, the editors published the text of the First Amendment, alongwith the university policy for The Maroon. It reads in part, “It is theresponsibility and obligation of the university to provide editorial freedom andsufficient financial autonomy for these media to establish and maintain theirintegrity as media for free inquiry and free expression in theuniversity.”Although the newspaper receives some revenue throughadvertising, Scott said the university provides most of the funding throughstudent activity fees. Both Scott and Wardlaw said they agree that Knoth waswithin his legal rights to pull the article because he is considered thepublisher of the private university’s paper, but this is a distinction they saythey want to change. “It is kind of like having the mayor of your townbeing the publisher of the paper,” Wardlaw said.Scott said Knoth hadnever read the newspaper’s content prior to publication. She said theadministration usually allows the student journalists to publish articles thatare critical of it, but something was different with the Fredricksonpiece.”It was a comedy of errors, except right now it does not lookfunny. It was just there was miscommunication, that we had to be extremelycareful of the language,” Scott said.Scott said the staff will requestthat the policy to be changed so the president is no longer considered thepublisher. Lelong said the administration has not given any thought to changingthe policy and that the president would continue to be the publisher of thepaper.Scott contends Knoth should not be responsible for what thestudents write, and the students ought to be able to be allowed to make theirown mistakes. “You know you don’t teach a baby how to walk by holdinghis hand all the time, you let him go. That’s the way you learn,” shesaid.