The College Media Association announced Monday, Nov. 26, it has censured the University of North Alabama after an investigation revealed the university had fired the student media adviser in retaliation to an article the student newspaper, the Flor-Ala, published in September. The censure “signals the association’s strongest possible condemnation of a university as being hostile toward the First Amendment,” according to the CMA.
The Nevada Sagebrush stands with the Flor-Ala, the CMA and other news organizations condemning the University of North Alabama for their blatant disregard of the First Amendment, and hope the university will reconsider their actions.
The Flor-Ala’s adviser, Scott Morris, was removed two weeks after the article was published and one week after a meeting between the administration, Morris and the editors of the paper to discuss the qualms the university had with the story.
Firing the newspaper’s adviser as a punishment to the newspaper for their article is a serious abuse of power over the press and sets a dangerous precedent for how universities can respond to student media. UNA is a public university and thus has different obligations to the First Amendment than private universities, one being they can’t control what is published in the student newspaper.
If UNA’s administration is not held accountable for their retaliation, this action could be replicated across the country. This would also make it harder for student media to find qualified advisors when advisors work in fear of their job being eliminated as soon as administration doesn’t like an article. Student media nationally already faces publication pressure from administrations and sometimes rely on the university for its existence. This would add another stressor and limit the First Amendment rights student journalists have.
Student media is important to the ecosystem of a college campus — these publications report on things affecting the university and bring information about campus to light that would go otherwise unknown. Student journalists are tasked with not only being students that are affected by what occurs on their campus, but have to be professional enough to report on it as well. More often than not, student journalists receive backlash from other students and university administration because the stories they write aren’t always flattering to the student body or administration. But every week at most universities, student journalists are in their newsrooms working to produce a paper for their institution.
Student media is an integral part of any college experience, and the censorship of it needs to end. If we don’t speak out now, there will come a point where college newspapers are controlled and curated by administration instead of representing the student body as a whole.
Any threat to one student media organization is a threat to us all. This is why student media leaders teamed up earlier this year to create #SaveStudentNewsrooms — a day of action to highlight the issues student publications face and raise money to keep them afloat. Student publications must stand together in times like these, not just on #SaveStudentNewsrooms day, to show support for the affected newsroom as well as ensure we will not face these issues in the future.
The Nevada Sagebrush is an independent, student-run newspaper covering the University of Nevada, Reno, for 125 years. We face the same budget issues many publications across the world do, and ask our readers for support. To learn how, visit nevadasagebrush.com or contact Madeline Purdue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Editorial Board can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.