News’ View: Quinnipiac officials deserve ‘F’

John L. Lahey has been the president of Quinnipiac University for 21 years. One would think that in this two-decade span, he would have learned a thing or two about education.

But his administration’s threat this week against the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists — for its interactions with an independent student newspaper — runs directly (read: despicably) counter to core tenets of liberal education (and, potentially, the law).

As the News reported this week, Quinnipiac’s Student Center Director Daniel Brown sent a letter Monday to Jaclyn Hirsch of the SPJ chapter. “This,” he wrote, “serves as an official warning that any further interaction or endorsements with The QUAD News could result in the Quinnipiac University Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists losing its recognition status.”

Since the Quad News is not a “recognized student organization,” he explained, it does not have “any privileges and may not operate on campus.”

For a moment, let us try, hard as it might be, to set aside the fact that Quinnipiac is a university, not kindergarten as its administrators’ actions might suggest, and consider another disturbing truth: the Quad News should not even have to exist.

It was formed, in fact, only after the Quinnipiac administration began controlling first the Web content and then the editorial content of the de facto independent newspaper on campus, The Chronicle. The online publication’s editors are disgruntled former editors of the once-legitimate weekly, which, for the record, is now run indirectly by school officials, essentially through intimidation. (Officials hand-choose — and pay —an editor and publisher, who in turn remain loyal to them.)

So not only has Lahey’s staff restricted the activities of a well-intentioned campus organization; it has also tampered with and hampered what should be an independent student press.

As journalists, this outrages us. As students, though, we find ourselves even more perturbed.

First, the university’s actions raise fair First Amendment questions. Although it is a private institution, Quinnipiac receives public funding — and the Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988) established that newspapers with past histories of editorial independence may not be censored by school officials. And in spirit at least, the move is an assault on freedom of assembly.

But more important, what happened to academic freedom? And, for that matter, sound pedagogical practice? On these points, Yalies must strenuously and publicly object. Everyone on our campus — faculty, students, administrators — should feel her blood boil at the thought of students so nearby subject to such inane and misguided policy.

To his credit, Lahey has transformed Quinnipiac into a thriving university. But what good is a university whose leadership cares more about image and liability than expression and learning?

Not much good at all. So tell him what you think. President Lahey’s office phone number is 203-582-8700 and his e-mail is john.lahey@quinnipiac.edu.

Or better yet, just quote from his school’s own student handbook. In outlining official philosophy toward student groups, after all, it reads, “Human development is a life process leading to the development of self-determination and self-direction.”

So much for that.

Comments

  • Information Dissemination Factory

    Bravo!
    Quinnipiac has growing pains. It began 50 uyears ago as a Mickey Mouse business school, became a college, then a university and garnered a repuitation as a poll and survey taker quotwed now on august venues like MacNeil-lehrer News Hour. It even has a "Law" School

    The trouble is, it has zero understanding of the liberal arts.

    It is an information dissemination factory.

    Bravo to you for taking it to task!

  • Anonymous

    this is so arrogant and condescending. ydn should mind its own business.

  • QU Alum

    Thanks for writing this. I couldn't agree more.

  • QU student

    thank you

  • Jason Driscoll

    As a recent grad of Quinnipiac University and it's School of Communications I'm appalled at the audacity of Lahey and his administration. The school is more concerned about it's public image than educating the students and allowing them to gain the experience needed to be the best in their field. Maybe instead of worrying about what the student media organizations are saying about what's wrong with the school, the administration should focus on fixing the problems the students are reporting about.

  • To anonymous

    Im a qu student and this isnt an arrogant story, IMO. Educate yourself a bit and you'll realize it's everones business… it's the first amendment we're talking about here. YDN supports the quad news ,and so do many others.

  • QU Student

    Thank you for your support and opinion. Your words really convey what us students are going through. Great job. Let's continue to make this dilemma known to the rest of the public.

  • Informed Observer

    I have a small amount of privileged information with regards to this situation and let me tell you that both sides have blown it way out of proportion. This editorial champions a cause that doesn't really exist.

    Let's get this straight. The administration never attempted to censor any article or stop "bad news" about the school from coming out. YDN and everyone else keeps assuming that, but it simply never happened.

    What did happen is the former Chronicle editors sparred with the administration over a minor rule that restricted the online edition to come out once a week. Everyone agrees it's a stupid rule. That's why it's been changed this year.

    The administration unfortunately played hardball for a while, but the Chronicle editors should have cooled off for a moment and realized that their own best interest (running a financially independent paper) and the administration's best interest (eschewing the legal liability of a university-owned paper) were the same. In the long run, this is what the administration wanted. This is the same principle of independence that the editors of the Yale Daily News take for granted.

    Anyways, the Chronicle staff got mad and overreacted, creating an independent paper (irony?). Now the administration is over reacting. Everyone, give yourself a big round of applause. You've created a lose-lose situation.

    And YDN, you're fueling the fire. This is not a first amendment issue. This is a stupidity issue.

  • Anonymous

    I'm glad this is posted as an opinion article and not news, because your story has some huge gaping holes of incorrect or incomplete information. I would have thought Yale would have a higher standard for journalism.

  • Anonymous

    This afternoon, Quinnipiac VP Lynn Bushnell sent an e-mail to the Quinnipiac community in which she stated that this story "proves the power of the press: a power which in this case has been abused and results in a complete distortion of the truth." After re-reviewing the facts and the rest of her letter, we stand by our editorial.

    On a basic level, what Ms. Bushnell neglects to mention is that we asked her and her president for an explanation multiple times over the past week. We even delayed the editorial a day in part to allow them more time to respond. They did not even reply.

    Moreover, Ms. Bushnell has twisted our words, implying that we suggest in the News' View that officials are exercising prior review. We have never reported this, and as is plain from the text, we did not state it Friday.

    Above all, though, she sidesteps our main point: a university should be in the business of actively promoting independent student initiative and journalism, not battling its existence. Sure, legally speaking, Quinnipiac officials can choose to play hardball with a campus organization, even if it is not in the spirit of the First Amendment. But our view — and it is within our right to hold this view and for others to disagree — is that the university should work twice as hard in these situations to teach rather than protect its image. Everyone could benefit then.

    The editors of the Quad News, of course, have not done everything right. But the letter to the SPJ, simply put, was inappropriate and chilling. We are not alone in this view. Leaders of Poynter, the Student Press Law Center and the national chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists have all condemned Quinnipiac's actions this week. Whatever happens, we will continue to follow this matter closely — and we will continue to ask officials for their side, even if they choose not to respond.

    Sincerely,
    Andrew Mangino
    Editor in Chief

  • Anonymous

    The problem, Andrew, is that the article yesterday and editorial today IMPLY that the university is engaged in censorship.

    YDN states today that "the Quinnipiac administration began controlling first the Web content and then the editorial content of the de facto independent newspaper."

    Yesterday YDN published this statement: "“We would be very concerned about a university trying to use the status of a student organization as SPJ as a coercive technique to punish expression that they disagree with,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Arlington, Va., national organization Student Press Law Center."

    A reasonable reader will walk away believing that the administration tried to change content. That's not true.

  • David Hutter

    I want to thank the Yale Daily News student-journalists for caring about the Quinnipiac University student-journalists' plight with QU administrators regarding control the content of The QU Chronicle. I regard the Yale Daily News article as accurate and fair. Kudos to editor-in-chief Andrew Mangino for having the courage of his convictions to have pursued and written the article.
    I am saddened and appalled that the Quinnipiac administrators are harassing the Quinnipiac chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
    Sincerely,
    David Hutter
    Quinnipiac University Class of 2007
    The Quinnipiac Chronicle news editor 2006-07

  • Bystander

    Great job discussing this issue from both sides. One thing to remember as future journalists. The first amendment comes with awesome responsability.

  • The Hypocricy of It All

    YDN is just as bad as QPac for censoring comments on its website.

  • Anonymous

    The Quad News has issued the following statement in response to a memo posted on MyQ by Lynn Bushnell the vice president for public affairs.

    http://media.www.quadnews.net/media/storage/paper1368/news/2008/09/09/News/Quad-News.Statement-3429336.shtml

  • Anonymous

    To #11: Thanks for the comment. We never meant to imply prior review, but we hope the record is now clear. Our point, at least, is that there are other means of controlling content, namely intimidation, tight management of interviews, and selection of editors. And then there is the self-censorship that stems from an administration that editors can fairly expect will be disgruntled by a certain story or editorial stance. These forms of coercion are as dangerous as direct censorship.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew Mangino

    Editor in Chief

  • Former EIC

    As former EIC (06-07) and staff member of what was formerly the legitimate "Chronicle," I can attest to first-hand experience fighting QU's attempt to censor the paper and student journalists' efforts in general. Kudos to all involved in this situation (including professors) for not letting them go through with it.

    Whoever is posting negative comments against this article or its author, clearly hasn't had any real experience with this issue at the university (or perhaps is employed by the university..hmm).

    I Loved QU, but hated the way they treated and continue to treat, the student media. (cough cough did that radio tower ever get put back up?) In the end, it will make you all better journalists for having dealt with so much adversity. Keep up the good work!

    "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost" -Thomas Jefferson, 1786

  • QU Faculty Member

    Having taught at several universities before coming to QU, I am shocked and disheartened by its attitude toward the Chronicle affair. The Quad News demonstrates both the professionalism and the entrepreneurial spirit of our students, and should be applauded for it. If anything, the administration should be proud and supportive of this venture.

    QU claims to be seeking national prominence. Well, this is one way to get it: painting itself as a scholarly backwater unconcerned with some of the most basic principles of the open society.

    When I talked to colleagues at other universities a few years ago, they had never heard of Quinnipiac. By last year, they knew of it through the Polling Institute. Now, they know about us as a prominent example of student censorship.

    If our administration doesn't understand the that censorship extends beyond prior restraint, perhaps they should try chatting with their faculty in Law or Communications. Were this an organization structured as a university and not as a business, President Lahey would be facing a "no confidence" vote about now.

  • community member

    Is it possible to get a University President Impeached? How does one get to the source of this problem which is the guy at the top? I think that school needs a NEW more Liberal President!

  • QU Alum

    Thanks for writing this -- I'm glad outsiders can see the hidden truth of how oppressive QU officials really are. It's unfortunate that any e-mails and calls made to the contacts you provided will never get to him. I spent 4 years highly involved at QU and I saw Lahey THREE times. He doesn't care to meet any students or hear their opinions. Like you said, he only cares about image.