OKLAHOMA — A copy editor at Oklahoma State University’sstudent paper is vowing to fight an attempt by the journalism department’sdirector to remove her from the school’s publications board.
Tom Weir, director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, sent aletter to student board member Jessie Markovetz on March 26 to inform her shewould have to be removed from her position, citing a section of the board’sbylaws that says no one holding “a salaried editorial staff position” at theO’Collegian can serve on the board. The bylaws define a salaried employeeas one that receives a base pay for each issue that is not tied to an hourlywage.
Markovetz gets paid $25 per night that she copy edits, no matter how manyhours she works, but the $25 is converted into an hourly wage on her paycheck. Joey Senat, a journalism professor who is advising Markovetz, said he does notthink Markovetz should be considered a salaried employee.
Markovetz said she went to the March 27 board meeting and delivered aletter to the board saying Weir overstepped his authority by removing herbecause the bylaws do not grant him the power to unilaterally remove a boardmember. She questioned the timing of Weir’s letter, which was delivered a daybefore the board was scheduled to meet and choose a new O’Collegianeditor in chief.
“I knew that it wasn’t quite right,” Markovetz said. “He all along has usedhis authority to make all the decisions.”
The board could not vote on a new editor in chief during the meeting,however, because no candidates applied.
Suzanne Holcombe, publications board chairwoman, said Markovetz isconsidered salaried because she gets paid per issue, not hourly.
“It was nothing Dr. Weir wanted to do,” said Holcombe, a documentslibrarian. “We’re following what the bylaws say.”
Holcombe said the process of removing of a board member is not addressed inthe board’s bylaws. But Holcombe spoke with university legal counsel, who saidthe board will probably have to vote on Markovetz’ removal for the decision tostand.
Markovetz, who technically is still on the board until a vote takes place,also questioned Weir’s motives in removing her from the board, citing tensionsamong board members over a policy change that would put the O’CollegianWeb editor under the authority of the editor in chief.
O’Collegian staffers began to withholdprint content from the paper’s Web site in November when disputes arose over whohad authority over ocolly.com. O’Collegian general manager Fritz Wirt hadallowed a student to write for the paper’s Web site, ocolly.com, after formerEditor in Chief Jenny Redden had already fired the student. Redden, a formerSPLC intern, said Wirt should not make hiring decisions for the publicationbecause he is not a student.
Redden asked the publications board to formally declare that the editor inchief had authority over ocolly.com. The board said it could not because therewas no policy defining the Web site’s relationship to the paper. O’Collegianstaffers, under new Editor in Chief Rhiannon Mako, in January allowed thepaper’s print content back on ocolly.com after the board created a committee tolook into the issue.
The committee ultimately recommended the Web editor function under theauthority of the editor in chief. The board was supposed to vote on thecommittee’s policy change recommendations as early as January, but the vote waspostponed for months. Holcombe said the board likely will not address the Website issue until other matters are resolved.
The board is waiting for the new university president to decide what typeof relationship the university will have with the O’Collegian, Holcombesaid. The university may examine whether the O’Collegian will continuebeing funded by student fees. The board also has to find an adviser for thepaper before the board determines if it has authority to act on the Web siteissue, she said.
Wirt maintains ocolly.com should function separately from theO’Collegian so the Web site can grow and eventually produce its owneditorial content. The board’s delay on deciding the Web site’s status has notallowed ocolly.com to progress, he said.
“It’s on cruise control right now until something changes,” Wirt said.”We’re just trying to co-exist.”
In the meantime, ocolly.com will continue functioning as it always has,with a Web editor posting O’Collegian print content to the Web site. Thenext board meeting is April 11, where members may vote on Markovetz’ removal anddiscuss the hiring of the next editor in chief, Holcombe said.