Public event at Indiana U. canceled after paper refuses to go off the record

INDIANA — A student organization at Indiana Universityabruptly canceled a public speech by a former Bush administration officialTuesday after a disagreement with the student newspaper over the speaker’srequest that the speech be off the record.

Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security adviser for the Bushadministration, had stipulated in an agreement with the event organizers, theStudent Alliance for National Security, that no one from the press be allowed topublicize what would be said at her speech. When the editor in chief of theIndiana Daily Student, Carrie Ritchie, refused the request, the event wascanceled.

“To me, there was no logic to what they were doing,” Ritchie said.”Anything that this woman was saying, she’s making a public statement. … Themedia can cover public events.”

Adam Newman, assistant director of the student group, said they had nochoice but to cancel the event because they had agreed to O’Sullivan’s terms.

“She didn’t want the media directly quoting things from the talk,” Newmansaid. “That was actually a requirement for her to come speak at theuniversity.”

Legally, O’Sullivan could not keep the press from covering the eventbecause it was open to the public, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of theReporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

“It is profoundly naive to think you can invite the public and gagthem and the press from talking about it,” Dalglish said. “It’s unfortunate thatbetter judgment wasn’t used here.”

Ritchie said the paper could have sent in a reporter without telling eventorganizers but chose to inform them.

“We thought it would be best for everybody to call them,” she said. “Anyonecould’ve snuck in there with a recording device and recorded it and put it uponline 10 minutes later.”

But Miles Taylor, director of the student group, said the paper raised itsconcern only five minutes before the speech was to begin. A press release sentto the Daily Student a week in advance had said the speech would be offthe record to the press, he said.

“Had we known a little further in advance, we could’ve made somearrangements,” he said. “Our hands were tied.”

Newman said O’Sullivan stayed for a dinner Tuesday night and spokeinformally with event organizers and some university faculty.

By Emilie Yam, SPLC staff writer