Editors scuffle with officials over distribution bins

NEW YORK -- Citing 'aesthetic reasons,' administrators at the City University of New York's Graduate Center removed distribution bins for the school's student newspaper and replaced them with two much smaller racks -- a move that editors say seriously hampers their distribution efforts.

Editor Mark Petras said the old bins held up to 300 copies of The Advocate, but now his staff can only distribute around 60 issues at a time in the plastic racks that appeared in April in the lobby of the school's nine-story building, which is the paper's main distribution site.

"If our distribution in the lobby is stopped, it really cuts off circulation to the whole building and the whole school," Petras said.

School officials have designated a shelf, the bottom of six on the rack, as the one on which the papers are to be placed.

Police confiscate journalist’s naked photos

ILLINOIS -- Northern Illinois University officials admitted violating the First Amendment after confiscating film from a school newspaper photographer in May.

The film contained pictures of a graduate student who took off all her clothes to protest remarks made by a speaker at a religious debate on campus. Because the police arrived too late to identify the woman, an officer approached Northern Star photography editor Kevin Slattery and asked for his camera. When he refused, a few plain-clothed officers arrived and told him if he did not give up the camera he would be arrested.

"I was upset because I didn't know my rights," Slattery said.

Mercury task force wants to implement changes for Glenville State newspaper

WEST VIRGINIA -- The Mercury may not be rising this fall at Glenville State College if The Mercury Strategic Plan Task Force follows through with all of its recommendations for the school's student newspaper.

Christopher Williams, office manager of The Mercury, said the college's president formed the committee to make some major changes to the paper, including a revision of the newspaper's charter and development of a publication committee that Williams said could regulate story content before publication.

The task force is looking into areas of the paper's operation, including its budget, format, mission and purpose, number of issues, production schedule, staffing policies and adviser selection as well as ways to "ensure that it meets the mission" of the school.

He said the committee is also considering moving the newspaper office from its current location and totally eliminating the print version of the paper, leaving a solely online publication.

Williams said among the explanations given for the changes is the fact that the paper's budget, which is funded by student fees, is being affected by a decline in enrollment.

However, he also said school officials have been upset with critical articles The Mercury has printed and thinks the administration's view that the paper has not done "an adequate job of informing students on campus" really disguises its desire to control content.

"They don't want us to print anything derogatory to the university," Williams said.

Judge upholds expulsion of 8th grader

PENNSYLVANIA -- In a departure from most court rulings concerning schools' ability to punish students for their Web sites, a state court ruled in July that a Bethlehem school district did not violate the First Amendment rights of a middle school student when it expelled him for a Web page he created at home.

Although most courts that have heard cases on this subject have sided with the students (see Web site), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court found that district officials were justified in expelling former Nitschmann Middle School student Justin Swidler because comments on his Web site could be considered threats against a teacher at the school.

Education Department issues guidelines for release of campus court information

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Under new guidelines issued by the Department of Education in July, colleges and universities can no longer use the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as justification for their refusal to release the results of certain campus disciplinary proceedings.

The new guidelines make it clear that schools do not violate FERPA -- a law enacted to protect the privacy of students' educational records -- if they release the names of students found guilty of violent crimes and nonforcible sex offenses in the campus court system, unless prevented from doing so by a state law or other legal mandate.

Since the rules took effect August 7, schools are now allowed to provide the final results of disciplinary proceedings in which a student is found to be in violation of school rules for allegedly committing a crime of violence or nonforcible sex offense.

Faculty advisers reject student’s submission

CALIFORNIA -- When Fresno City College student Ryan Bowler had his submission to the campus magazine The Ram's Tale rejected by faculty advisers out of fear it would offend the school's administration, he decided to use another publication to get the word out about what he calls an attempt to "regulate the student press and subsequently control the student body."

In a commentary published by The Fresno Bee in May, Bowler accused school officials of threatening to withhold monetary support from The Ram's Tale if student editors printed material that offended administrators.