The presidentof Loyola University at New Orleans ordered the student newspaper earlier thismonth to delete an article that reported that the head of the school’s musicprogram was fired.
President Bernard Knoth said the article wasconjecture and, as the publisher of The Maroon, he had the right toremove misleading material, a university spokesperson confirmed. Editors said,however, that the faculty member’s departure was newsworthy. And they are nowcalling into question the policy at the private Jesuit university that providesthe president authority over the paper.
The Maroon articlereported that Scott Fredrickson, the Conrad N. Hilton Eminent Scholar in MusicIndustry Studies, was escorted off campus by police two weeks ago. Universityofficials refused to comment on his departure so the newspaper made that theangle for their article, titled “Chair’s firing shrouded in secrecy.” Thenewspaper quoted several faculty members and students, most of whom wished toremain anonymous, about the reasons behind Fredrickson’s untimely departure,editors say.
Maroon adviser Liz Scott said Knoth called her May 8while the next day’s edition of the weekly paper was at the printer. Accordingto Scott, Knoth said he was worried that if the newspaper reported Fredricksonwas fired the music chair could use that against the university if he filed alawsuit. Scott said Knoth initially told her to remove any references to himbeing fired but later that day ordered her to remove the entirearticle.
Knoth could not be reached for comment, but he told TheTimes-Picayune that although the article was well-written and well-edited,”it was certainly misleading and from my point of viewinflammatory.
Kristine David Lelong, LU’s 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 are keptconfidential to respect the privacy rights of individuals.
“What he hadto do was basically balance the rights of The Maroon with the rights ofthe people involved. And the best thing at the time [was] to pull the article,”Lelong said.
Editor Robert Wardlaw said he was “pretty livid” when heheard Knoth quashed the May 9 article.
After editors rushed to replacethe Fredrickson article so they could distribute the paper on Friday, a group offour editors went to Knoth’s office just before 5 p.m. on May 8. The five-minuteexchange reportedly turned ugly.
Sports editor Nick Boeglin, said he andthree of his colleagues asked Knoth why he pulled the story. He said Knoth toldthem they did not 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 corrected version of the newspaper, without theFredrickson piece, was distributed on campus the following week. On page 3, theeditors published the text of the First Amendment, along with the universitypolicy for The Maroon. It reads in part, “It is the responsibility andobligation of the university to provide editorial freedom and sufficientfinancial autonomy for these media to establish and maintain their integrity asmedia for free inquiry and free expression in the university.”
Althoughthe newspaper receives some revenue through advertising, Scott said theuniversity provides most of the funding through student activity fees. BothScott and Wardlaw said they agree that Knoth was within his legal rights to pullthe article because he is considered the publisher of the private university’spaper, but this is a distinction they say they want to change.
“It iskind of like having the mayor of your town being the publisher of the paper,”Wardlaw said.
Scott said the staff will request that the policy bechanged so the president is no longer considered the publisher. Lelong said theadministration has not given any thought to changing the policy and that thepresident would continue to be the publisher of the paper.
Scott contendsKnoth should not be responsible for what the students write, and the studentsought to be able to be allowed to make their own mistakes.
“You know youdon’t teach a baby how to walk by holding his hand all the time, you let him go.That’s the way you learn,” she said.
SPLC View: Once again, a privateuniversity must decide whether it truly wants a newspaper or a public relationsnewsletter. Students at Loyola clearly deserve to have a meaningful voice ontheir campus.