Longtime adviser barred from newsroom at Saint Louis University

MISSOURI – A longtime adviser to Saint Louis University’sstudent newspaper, The University News, may no longer enter thepaper’s newsroom, university Provost Joe Weixlmann ordered Tuesday.

In a June 3 e-mail to Professor Avis Meyer, Weixlmann wrote he would”block your access to the newsroom” if Meyer continued to assist theNews within its facilities.

“I’m doing this for nothing,” Meyer, who is a volunteeradviser at the News, said. “I’ve won awards and have workedin the business for over 30 years. It’s a benefit to them and theschool.”

Meyer believes his removal from the News comes as the result of along and bitter relationship with university’s president, Father LawrenceBiondi. For example, Meyer accused Biondi of plagiarism in an October 2005column.

“Any bad press the university received, whether it came from TheUniversity News or from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” whereMeyer served as a copy editor, “Biondi blamed on my doing. He goesballistic,” Meyer said.

Jeff Fowler, spokesman for the university, said Meyer’s removal fromthe News is not related to his disagreements with Biondi but isin response to Meyer’s unprofessional behavior.

“Dr. Meyer has disagreed with the newspaper’s appointed adviserin front of student reporters and editors. This has contributed to aproblematic working situation for all involved,” Fowler said. “Thisis not Dr. Meyer’s newspaper.”

Meyer, a tenured professor at the private university since 1982, has beenserving as an adviser to the News in some capacity for more than 30years. In June 2007 the newspaper adopted a new charter and appointed Jason L.Young to the position of official News adviser. Meyer stayed, however,on a volunteer basis.

“They took away my stipend as faculty adviser. They thought that byre-writing the charter I would automatically go away,” Meyer said.

Katie Lewis, an SLU graduate and outgoing Editor in Chief of theNews, said Meyer served as a source of institutional memory for thepaper. She said Meyer would come into the office to help copy edit and writeheadlines.

“If the administration would come into the office on productionnights, they would see how harmless he really is. I don’t think anystudent in the newsroom wants him gone,” Lewis said.

According to Lewis, in executive meetings during the Spring 2008 semester,The University News Advisory Board made it clear that Meyer would nolonger be welcome at the News. According to the new charter, the boardis made up of members approved by Vice President for Student Development KentPorterfield.

“I told them that they’ll have to enforce what they say becausethere’s no way I would ever ask him to leave,” Lewis said.

Young said that although he did not directly collaborate with Meyer, healso did not avoid his input. When asked if he wanted Meyer removed from thenewsroom, Young said it is not his responsibility to advocate for or argueagainst Meyer’s involvement with the newspaper.

“That is a decision made at the academic level. It is not my role totell a faculty member not to show up,” Young said.

Meyer told the SPLC in June 2007 that the new charter, which replaced onedrafted in the 1990s, gave university administrators too much control over theNews.

“It’s prior restraint if ever I’ve seen it,” Meyersaid at the time.

In reaction to the charter, Meyer set into motion plans to separate theNews from the university. Part of the separation involved filing atrademark request to register the News’ nameplate with the officeof Missouri’s Secretary of State. The nameplate read,”University News, A Student Voice Serving Saint Louis UniversitySince 1921.”

On October 2007 the university filed a lawsuit against Meyer for trademarkinfringement because he attempted to register the university’s name”for his own purposes,” Fowler said. The suit confused Meyer, sinceit came only after he had relinquished the trademark into the public domain whenplans to separate the News from the university dissolved. The suitremains active.

The university said it had asked Meyer twice, in letters sent June 22 andAugust 16, to relinquish the trademark before they filed a lawsuit. Meyer saidhe was out of the country when the letters were sent.

Most recently, Meyer said university attorneys have asked him for nearly 30years of syllabi from every course he has taught at the university. Meyerbelieves the request is an attempt to find a reason to revoke his tenure at theuniversity.

“They’ve tried to bludgeon me financially with lawsuits to stopme from working on the paper. They’re now trying to physically stop meand soon I think they’ll try to take my tenure,” Meyer said.