Quinnipiac U. editors leave en masse to start independent Web outlet

CONNECTICUT — The returning editor in chief, otherreturning editors and new applicants for editorial positions at QuinnipiacUniversity’s student newspaper withdrew their applications en masse over thepast week in protest of a new selection process that will allow the dean ofstudents to select The Chronicle‘s editorial board.

Jason Braff, who had planned to reapply as editor in chief for next year,said he received 20 applications for editorial positions by the original April 7deadline but was told by administrators to hold off on the normal selectionprocess.

In the past, the faculty adviser and student affairs adviser selected theeditor in chief and managing editors. These new editors — along with thefaculty adviser and dean of students — would then select the rest of theeditors after a round of interviews.

That process changed this year. A university task force in Aprilrecommended moving the Chronicle toward independence from the university.The recommendation came after a year that saw high-profile disputes between thepaper and the administration, including over a policy that barred theChronicle from posting stories online before they ran in print. Thatpolicy has been rescinded, said Lynn Bushnell, the university’s vice presidentfor public affairs, in a statement e-mailed to the Student Press LawCenter.

Students, including Braff, said they were concerned about whether the papercould survive independently from a financial standpoint.

In response, the university set up a two-year “trial structure” to governthe paper “while determining whether or not total independence from theuniversity is financially viable,” Bushnell wrote. Under that structure, thedean of students, Manuel Carreiro, will select an editor in chief from a pool ofstudents nominated by the deans of Quinnipiac’s schools.

Braff said under the new structure, he and the managing editors weresupposed to recommend students for each editorial position — other thaneditor in chief — and the dean of students would make the final selection,interviewing only those applicants Braff and the managing editorsrecommended.

“Not only is that unfair to first-time applicants, but it is unfair thatDr. Carreiro choose next year’s editorial board,” Braff wrote in a Tuesdaye-mail to all 20 applicants.

The university intends for the editor in chief to select other editors inthe future, but this year “the process was complicated by the change in theselection process for the editor in chief,” Bushnell wrote.

In his e-mail, Braff announced he would not reapply for his position, saidseveral other editors had decided to leave as well, and encouraged otherapplicants to withdraw. All 20 had done so by Wednesday night, Braff said.Instead, the students have begun planning a new, independent online paper, whichthey hope to launch in the fall.

Jaclyn Hirsch, who was campus news editor this year, said many factorscontributed to the applicants’ decision to leave, including the lack of studentinvolvement on the university task force or in developing the transitionalstructure.

“We’ve been in a constant battle with the administration since thebeginning of the school year,” she said. “In my opinion the lack of studentinput has brought us to where we are now.”

Hirsch said leaving the Chronicle was “really difficult on a personallevel” but that she “wasn’t willing to put myself in a situation where I feltopen and free journalism wasn’t the first priority.”

The Chronicle published its last issue for the semester April 23.The university expects to have a new editorial staff in place in time for thepaper to resume publishing in the fall, Bushnell wrote in her statement. ButBraff and Hirsch said they do not know of anyone still applying for thepositions.

Braff said he does not know what will happen to the Chronicle nextyear, but “I think it’s time to move on, for us.”

He and Hirsch said they are excited to launch the new Web paper, whichstill is in the early development stages.

“We have a great group of motivated journalists that want to report news,”Hirsch said. “And I think as long as we all stick together and keep our commongoals in mind, we will all benefit from this in the end.”