N.C. university shuts down student newspaper after plagiarism accusation

NORTH CAROLINA — Western Carolina University’s studentnewspaper is back in business after the university temporarily shut it down.

The university made the decision to shut down the Western Carolinianlast Friday amid its investigation into plagiarism accusations brought by alocal newspaper, The Sylva Herald.

No one directly familiar with the situation was in theHerald’s office Thursday afternoon.

Western Carolinian Editor-in-Chief Justin Caudell said theaccusations came in August, after which the paper conducted an internalinvestigation and determined no plagiarism occurred. Upon hearing this, theHerald contacted the university, which began an investigation of its own.

Caudell said staff held several meetings with university officialsregarding the plagiarism accusations.

“It was on Friday that out of nowhere, they decided to suspendoperations at the newspaper and didn’t give us a written explanation orreason as to why with the exception of saying they wanted to suspend operationsuntil the plagiarism situation was resolved,” he said.

The suspension ended on Wednesday, lasting a total of five days.

WCU spokesman Bill Studenc wrote in an email the university haltedoperations of the Western Carolinian “pursuant to WCU’spolicies regarding student organizations.”

Studenc also wrote the university imposed the suspension because theWestern Carolinian staff “did not respond to repeated follow-upmeeting requests” from university officials to talk about the plagiarismaccusations.

“The suspension was rescinded after newspaper staff met with StudentAffairs personnel,” Studenc wrote.

The investigation continues, but the paper will be allowed to resume itsoperations, he wrote.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, saidthe law only permits the prevention of publication when the material is eitherillegal or will disrupt the operation of the school.

“That standard never permits censorship based on what was publishedin the past, particularly when what was published wasn’t illegal,”he said.

Plagiarism, although an ethical and academic violation, isn’tillegal, Goldstein said.

The Western Carolinian, a bimonthly publication, was scheduled tocome out Friday, Caudell said. However, because of the shutdown, the paper willnot publish until next week. He added the paper’s website was alsointerrupted.

“As far as for the issue of the newspaper being shut down, it isresolved, and I’m happy that the newspaper is allowed to be back inbusiness and that the suspension of the staff is lifted,” he said. “But I do still have concerns of the way the university handled thesituation over the past week.”

Caudell said he thinks steps should be taken to prevent similar problems inthe future.

“In the future, some training should be conducted on theuniversity’s end to where this doesn’t happen again,” Caudellsaid.