BERKELEY, Calif. – Whether a journalist works at The New York Times or a college newspaper, they have an obligation to defend an independent press free from intrusions of government and university officials.Next Friday, students from Northern Arizona University will meet with top officials there to discuss a sex column that ran in the Feb. 12 edition of The Lumberjack, the college newspaper sparking outrage among administrators and some students.
The Lumberjack’s advisor has since drafted guidelines for the paper’s sex column to abide by. Moreover, a university publication board has the power to hire and fire the editor in chief, and some editors and staff members receive tuition subsidies from the university. This gives the university the ability to influence editorial decisions.
The paper should be responsive to its readers and sensitive to their tastes, but it should under no circumstances accept any guidelines man-dated by the university which would compromise their First Amendment right to a free press.
Additionally, the paper’s staff needs to seriously reexamine its relationship to the university. Any relationship in which the university can hire or fire the editors or supplies the means to pay for the student’s education is a conflict of interest.
In 1971, UC administration fired three Daily Cal editors over an editorial that called on the community to take back People’s Park, and the paper separated itself from the university. For the past four decades it has operated as an independent operation receiving no money or subsidy from the university, and free from university oversight.
As a true independent, we support The Lumberjack’s struggle to maintain editorial control and call on them to vigorously defend it in the future.