Penn State alumni ask board to reconsider firing of longtime newspaper adviser

PENNSYLVANIA — Students and alumni at Pennsylvania StateUniversity in University Park, Pa., are upset over the firing of the independentstudent newspaper’s news adviser and are putting pressure on the newspaper’sboard to reverse the decision.

John Harvey, adviser to the Daily Collegian for 11 years, was firedby the newspaper’s General Manager Gerry Hamilton for “insubordination,”according to Harvey.

In response to Harvey’s dismissal, there has been an outpouring of supportfrom current and former students who wish to have the decision reversed and forthe Collegian adviser to be reinstated.

Harvey was notified that effective May 4, he would not be allowed to returnto work until June 22. On May 20 Harvey was notified that he was being fired forfurther acts of insubordination. Harvey said that Hamilton was upset that he hadrequested his attorney speak to members of the Collegian‘s Board ofDirectors regarding a separate matter.

Previously, in May 2008, Harvey was given a written warning explaining thathe was overstepping his role as adviser. Hamilton also reduced Harvey’s salary by 5percent.

The board convened in a special six-hour session June 3 to discuss andreview the events leading to Harvey’s dismissal, however, no official decisionsor conclusions have been made. A statement was released the following daystating that, “we have initiated actions that will open up the process andclarify the issues involved. The board understands and respects the impacts ofthis situation, and asks for support from our many stakeholders as we exerciseour fiduciary responsibilities.”

Board President Michael Hofherr declined to comment any further than theboard’s statement other than to say that, “this is a personnel matter andbecause the board is obligated to keep this information private, the board willnot be releasing any other information at this time.”

The newspaper’s own alumni group, which is an affiliate group of the PennState Alumni Association, released a statement May 21 stating their oppositionto Harvey’s firing and promoting his reinstatement. The group also stated thatthey are cutting off fundraising for the paper until something is done.

Former students have banded together showing their support for Harvey. Aformer editor of the Collegian, Terry Casey created a “Support JohnHarvey” Facebook page that now has more than 350 members.

A blog, run by various authors including Casey, was created in response tothe incident with a heading, “reinstate John Harvey as news adviser. Preservethe educational experience of TheDaily Collegian.”

Former Editor ErinJames wrote a letter on behalf of a group of former Collegian staffcalling for Harvey’s return, as well as a closer watch on Hamilton. James calledthe letter “respectful but straightforward.”

“As for General Manager Gerry Hamilton, we are united again in our opinionthat Mr. Hamilton has displayed a reckless disregard for what is in the bestinterest of the Collegian and its students by firing John Harvey,” said James inher letter. “However, for many of us, this is not the first time we havequestioned Mr. Hamilton’s competency as the Collegian’s general manager.”

The letter, signed by 13 former editors and management staff, places blameon Hamilton for the newspaper’s “detriment” in recent years.

Harvey, who did not attend the June 3 meeting, said that he is waiting tohear what the board has to say before considering any legal action. He said thathe has not spoken before the board yet, but that, “I let it be known that Iwould like to defend myself.”

Hamilton did not return messages for comment onthis story by press time.