Society of Professional Journalists calls for FERPA reform, student press freedom

NEVADA — The Society ofProfessional Journalists has publicly stated through unanimous resolutions itssupport of student privacy law reform and called for an end to college presscensorship.

“I think these issues are arising morefrequently and we probably need to be on the record that it’s bad business andwe oppose it,” said Mac McKerral, former SPJ president and head of theorganization’s resolutions committee. “We have been trying to get the membershipto develop more resolutions on what we think are substantive, important issues.”

McKerral said there have been too manyinstances of administrators suggesting pre-publication review, questioningcontent or pressuring advisers. He said SPJ often creates task forces to talkwith administration officials, but an overarching statement of support needed tobe made.

SPJ Freedom of Information CommitteeChairman Dave Cuillier said the need for a resolution on student privacy cameabout several years ago when the Columbus Dispatch did an investigationon abuse of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Since that time, manyjournalists continue to have access problems.

“We want to make sure this issue stays alivebecause this is a huge problem,” Cuillier said. “We are kind of tired of talkand whining. We want to see the law fixed.”

Cuillier said the resolution is aimed at SPJmembers, administrators, journalists and members of Congress — “if any ofthem will read it.”

“It’s to let everyone know that journalistsare fed up with the secrecy and the twisting of this law,” Cuillier said.

However he acknowledged the shortcomings ofthe action.

“A resolution is nice and all, but it is thenew ordinances and laws that make a difference,” Cullier said. “I am not surewho reads [resolutions] and I am not sure what impact they have. I think theyare really important within the membership and hopefully we can get it out thereand maybe it will have some impact.”

Western Kentucky University journalismprofessor Neil Ralston, who helped draft the censorship resolution, said it isimportant for students to know professional journalists nationally aresupporting them.

“It’d been some time since SPJ had expressedits support in such a way and we thought it was time to do that again,” Ralstonsaid. “Censorship issues come at us from different directions bothgeographically and philosophically.”

Ralston said in the past few yearsadministrators have gotten creative with oppression, putting stress on studentsand administrators.

Ralston said one adviser was so excited withthe censorship resolution, she told him she was going to frame it.