Bridgewater State newspaper: Adviser threatened with removal over controversial stories

Editors at Bridgewater State University say the Massachusetts school’s president is seeking the ouster of newspaper adviser David Copeland because of controversial articles published in the April 12 edition of The Comment.

In an article posted Thursday on The Comment‘s website, along with an accompanying opinion column, the newspaper reports that President Dana Mohler-Faria is asking the college’s Board of Trustees — who meet Friday — to approve a policy disqualifying part-time faculty from advising student organizations — a change that would apply only to Copeland.

The April 12 issue of the paper contained two articles that drew college administrators’ ire.

A student-authored opinion piece questioned the need for a proposed $500 hike in student fees, arguing that the college’s budget should be going down because some 200 jobs have been left vacant as a result of a freeze. And a news story about a “Take Back the Night” sexual assault awareness rally quoted a student speaker, by name, detailing how she was raped by an acquaintance at a prior school — a story that critics of the newspaper have claimed was invasive of the student’s privacy, although she spoke to a crowd of about 200 attendees at a public event. The paper has resisted public demands to pull the rape-victim story down from its website.

The Student Press Law Center wrote to Mohler-Faria Thursday to emphasize that removing an adviser because of disagreement with students’ editorial decisions can be a violation of the First Amendment rights both of the adviser and of the students. The SPLC urged the president to drop any plan to remove Copeland and to instead lead a campuswide discussion about the role of the news media and the coverage of sensitive topics.

Full coverage of the results of the trustees meeting and reaction to it will be posted Friday at