NEW YORK –The student-run television station at Syracuse University was shut down last week because administrators said one show on the station continually violated university policy.
Chancellor Nancy Cantor revoked the status of HillTV last Thursday as a recognized student organization in a meeting with the student staff. The revocation has sparked outcry from HillTV alumni. Staffers said they appealed the decision.
The controversy has centered on a show called “Over the Hill,” which went on the air less than a year ago, said Steven Kovach, news editor of The Daily Orange, the student newspaper at Syracuse. The show made light of eating disorders, date rape and lynching, among other issues, according to an article in The Post Standard, a community newspaper based in Syracuse, N.Y.
Because Syracuse is a private university, administrators there do not have the same constitutional limitations in censoring student media found at public institutions. However, some say that does not make the censorship any less of a problem.
“I find this to be censorship at its worst, at a place where censorship should be liberal,” said alumnus Matthew Berry in an article in the student newspaper.
“If this had been done at a public school, it would have been constitutionally impermissible. A private school that holds itself as a protector of free speech should hold itself to at least the same standards as a government school,” said David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE is dedicated to defending individual rights at colleges and universities, according to its Web site.
Administrators said the show had made students fearful and angry.
“Of course I believe in the First Amendment and the independence of the student media, but at some point you need to think about the painful impact on others,” Cantor said in a Post Standard article.
In a letter to alumni, Assistant Vice President Donald Doerr wrote that the revocation was not motivated by a desire to censor.
“It’s important to note that this is not about freedom of speech, but rather repeated violations of university policy that has impinged on the well-being of our community,” he said.
French said taking the channel down just because it was not politically correct was wrong.
“There should be no censorship on freedom of expression just because it’s found to be offensive,” he said.
Richard Levy, former general manager of the station, said it is important to remember that