Okla. college president accused of asking newspaper staff to snoop for him

Twostudent journalists and the adviser of the student newspaper at Eastern OklahomaState College say the school’s president pressured them to reveal the names ofsources used for an article about faculty pay.

But the two students, KyleRust and Erik Harris, and adviser Kelly Wray refused.

Wray, also chairmanof the journalism department, said President Bill Campion called him into hisoffice and asked whether any faculty members who “had an ax to grind” weretalking to The Eastern Statesman reporters.

“He wanted to knowwhere we were going with the story,” Wray said. “He expressed some concern thatit might become too negative. He said he hoped we didn’t have any Bob Woodwardwannabes.” 

The article in question discussed a new universitypolicy that requires some professors to teach an extra class without extra pay.It was published on Nov. 11 in the Statesman.

Rust, who wasunavailable to comment for this story, told The Oklahoman newspaper thatCampion urged him “to go to the newsroom and find out the sources, then reportback to him.” Campion told Rust to “just keep it between us two,” Rustsaid.

Campion did not respond to requests for comment, but he told TheOklahoman that he did not ask the students and adviser to reveal thesources.

“I’ve been around a long time and know about freedom of thepress and totally respect it,” Campionsaid.

Oklahoma’s shield lawprotects reporters from having to reveal their sources. Also, the stateLegislature approved a resolution in 1987 that states “institutions of highereducation [should] respect the First Amendment rights of the students of suchinstitutions, especially with reference to freedom of the press of studentnewspapers.”

Wray said Harris feared he would be labeled a troublemakerand Rust was concerned that his scholarship could be in jeopardy if thepresident retaliated for their decision not to reveal the sources. For his part,Wray said he didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

“I didn’tunderstand why there was such a concern about this story,” Wray said. “It’s notlike we didn’t try to get his comments for the story. He was one of the twopeople that was quoted.”