At Quinnipiac, student editors start carving a new path, independently

After a two-year tug of war with administrators, Quinnipiac Chronicle editors are taking matters into their own hands — and considering severing ties with the school permanently.

According to editor accounts, about 20 members of the newspaper met Wednesday night to begin planning for the possible creation an independent online newspaper.

The discussion came on the heels of a decision last week by high-level university administrators to hand select the newspaper’s editors for next year — a move quickly condemned by the Quinnipiac Faculty Senate and by Chronicle staff, who said in an unsigned statement that they refuse to serve as editors for the newspaper next year.

“We will put together our own independent newspaper free of control of the administration,” Chronicle Campus News Editor Jaclyn Hirsch said Thursday night.

The conflict began in 2006 when the Chronicle published an article covering an arrest of two freshmen. That day, outside media sources read the article online and contacted Quinnipiac President John Lahey, who was unaware of the arrest at the time. Soon, the administration created a Web publications policy, which banned online editorial content that did not appear in print.

Both administrators and Chronicle editors sparred over the Web policy for months before Vice President for Public Relations Lynn Bushnell, Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Manuel Carreiro and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Kathleen McCourt announced in January that they would become a three-person Media Task Force.

The plan for the newspaper — proposed by the task force last month and approved by Lahey last week — calls for electing a publisher from the Quinnipiac School of Business who would have both editorial and financial control over the newspaper and answer to a “temporary” publishing board composed of the Student Government Association president and three school deans. The board would facilitate the process of making the newspaper independent, according to an April statement from the Media Task Force.

But administrators tacked on an addendum. Last week, Carreiro approached Editor in Chief Jason Braff and Managing Editors David Westerberg and Melissa Moller and asked for candidate recommendations for the various department editors that would form the editorial board next year, Hirsch said. Carreiro, she added, said that administrators would interview the nominees and choose the department editors for the following year. Under the plan, administrators would also create a list of their own candidates and select from that list an editor in chief.

Bushnell, the public-relations director, said the system would be in place for only two years, and has stressed in the past that the plan would eventually cause the newspaper to be independent from the administration. But Lahey indicated on Wednesday that he approved the plan in order to at least temporarily prevent independence.

He has not, however, found much support on campus.

On Tuesday, the 18-member Faculty Senate — a group of faculty members in charge of “creation, preservation and transmission of knowledge,” according to the Quinnipiac Web site — voted 17-0, with one abstention, to ask for a one-year halt on administrative plans to change the structure of the newspaper. The Senate also requested that no structural changes be made without the group’s “effective and meaningful participation” in discussion, according to a statement.

Lahey responded quickly.

“My ultimate decisions with respect to the newspaper were consistent to the wishes of student editors and the Communications faculty that we not move the newspaper to ‘independent’ status as recommended by the Task Force,” he wrote in a Wednesday statement addressed to the Quinnipiac Faculty Senate.

On the same day, all 20 students who applied for an editor position next year — including current junior Braff, who was unavailable for comment this week — withdrew their applications, Hirsch said. Currently, there is no editorial board for next year’s paper, according to a statement posted on the Chronicle Web site.

“The future of The Chronicle is uncertain,” the unsigned statement said.

Although Bushnell insisted on Friday that the weekly distribution of the print newspaper would not be affected next year, if the Chronicle staff members have their way, the distribution would change completely.

Hirsch said a 20-person group of Chronicle members have split into committees in order to research Web space costs and marketing, among other areas of newspaper operation, in order to create an independent Web structure.

She added that throughout the process there was no communication between the editors and administration.

“The decision to go independent was never ours,” Hirsch said.

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