Public Tenn. university again demands that adviser review content before publication

TENNESSEE — Administrators at Tennessee State University are continuing to pressure the adviser of The Meter, a student newspaper at the university, to review content before it is published — despite court rulings that prohibit her from doing so.

Pamela Foster, the newspaper’s adviser, received a memo Aug. 2 instructing her that she is responsible for meeting with “each student writer and reading his or her article before the paper goes to print.”

The memo, which was sent by Maurice Odine, the chairman of the university’s communication department, said Foster should discuss any spelling or grammar errors with the students, but she should also inform them that they are under no obligation to correct the error.

Odine also sent a form for students to fill out and sign after they meet with Foster. By signing the form, the students acknowledge that they met with Foster to discuss the article and that it is their decision whether to utilize to Foster’s spelling and grammatical suggestions.

Controversy at the newspaper began in November 2002 when Foster received a letter from Odine requesting that she “perform mandatory prior review” of the newspaper.

Foster, however, refused the administration’s demand to review the newspaper before publication.

Odine responded to Foster’s refusal in December 2002 by saying her decision will “adversely affect students’ learning and the quality of the publication.”

“I’m definitely not [performing] mandatory prior review and everybody involved knows why not,” Foster said. “I always have and will continue to give advice on issues that arise, but I do not proofread or perform mandatory review.”

Foster said refusing to comply with administrators’ request to perform prior review puts her job in jeopardy, but she could not predict what the university’s response might be.

“I very much want the students to learn and I do what’s ethically in keeping with their education,” Foster said.

Courts have found it unconstitutional for public colleges to require material for campus newspapers to be submitted to faculty for review prior to publication.

In one such case, Trujillo v. Love, an administrator at Southern Colorado State College imposed a rule requiring the staff of the Arrow, a student newspaper at the college, to obtain approval before publishing any “controversial” material. The court found that the administrator, who in this case was the newspaper’s adviser, violated the First Amendment.

Odine was unavailable for comment.

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