Calif. college paper may be forced to obtain administrative approval before printing

Administrators at the Universityof the Pacific have threatened to institute a system of prior review on thestudent newspaper, The Pacifican, according to editors of thenewspaper.

The administration’s efforts stem from an ongoing conflictbetween student government officials and editors of The Pacifican at theprivate university which resulted in the student government passing a resolutionwithdrawing support for the newspaper’s charter.

When schooladministrators intervened and created a task force to review the university’scharter, editors claimed that the university was attempting to institute priorreview.

“The dean called me into the office and said I had numerousinaccuracies in my story,” said Alex Wagner, managing editor of ThePacifican. “Now all our articles, he said the university has authority [toreview them.]”

Gary Miller, Dean of the College of the Pacific, said theuniversity had no intention of censoring the newspaper’s articles, but sought toincrease the level of teaching done through the newspaper.

“Theuniversity has no interest in exercising prior restraint,” Miller said. “Theuniversity hasn’t been involved in the educational process as much as we wouldlike.”

Wagner, however, said Miller had told her he was angry that thenewspaper’s coverage reflected poorly on administrators.

In a meetingbetween Wagner and Miller, she said he told her, “We had made the [university]president look bad, and that we weren’t cooperating.”

Amber Prochaska,editor in chief of The Pacifican said that Miller told her that she was”not the real editor in chief, it’s whoever [Miller] appoints.”

ThePacifican reported this quote, but Miller denied saying anything along thoselines.

Miller said that he had created a task force to re-evaluate therole of the newspaper on campus, the way in which the newspaper was funded andthe role of the adviser in determining content, but did not offer specificinformation about what changes the task force might recommend.

Despitethe recent controversy, The Pacifican has continued to beprinted.

SPLC View: While private school students have no FirstAmendment protection against censorship by school officials, California isunique in that it has a state law — the Leonard Law — thatessentially says that students can’t be punished for speech activities at aprivate school that would be protected by either the First Amendment or theCalifornia Constitution when engaged in outside of school. The law only protectsagainst “disciplinary sanctions” for speech, however, and it’s not clear whethersubjecting a student newspaper to prior review when it wasn’t reviewed before