FLORIDA — Student government leaders have frozen the funding of Eagle News, the student newspaper at Florida Gulf Coast University, breaking an agreement reached last week, newspaper staff members say.
“[The Student Government] claims that it’s not censorship, but it smells like it and feels like it,” said Rich Ritterbusch, editor in chief of Eagle News. “We had an agreement that the funds wouldn’t be frozen at all, they violated an informal agreement.”
But student government leaders have said this is not a censorship issue.
“People are saying that we’re trying to blackmail Eagle News and that’s not the case. I don’t want to shut down the newspaper, I just want some corrections done,” said Student Government President Andres Andrade in an article in the Naples Daily News, a local paper.
Members of the student body, student newspaper and university administration met a week ago to resolve three issues raised by the student government, said Maria Roca, the newspaper’s adviser.
Roca said student government leaders had several objections with the newspaper’s content, including: a crossword puzzle clue that asked readers to identify a student arrested for a felony and an error in a dollar amount of one of the stories about the student government. Roca said leaders argued that the newspaper had no active oversight board, which the newspaper’s constitution requires.
“They threatened to pull the funding before we even published our next edition,” Ritterbusch said. He also said he wished the student government had voiced their concern in another way.
Roca said that the newspaper staff has worked all semester to create the oversight board, but the board had not formally met because there are still some vacant positions. She said they are working to fill the positions and hope to have a meeting soon.
In addition, the paper ran an apology for the crossword clue and a clarification of the error in the story, Ritterbusch said.
“I’d written the apology [before Monday’s meeting] because it was the right thing to do,” he said.
“I can’t imagine shutting down a newspaper over a crossword puzzle,” said Michael Koretzky, journalism adviser at Florida Atlantic University. The newspaper he advises faced a similar tension between the student press and the student government last year.
He said that part of the problem may be that because Florida Gulf Coast University is the newest school in the Florida university system, it does not have the history and knowledge other schools have to recognize what a student government can and cannot do.
“It might be that the adults on campus