Bad News for Free Student Journalism

Bad News for Free Student Journalism

The American Association of University Professors released a report today on the freedoms of student press, and it does not look good. Student publications that portray their institution in anything but a positive light risk censorship, budget cuts, and–for faculty advisers–firings. By forcibly blurring the lines between journalism and marketing, administrations across the country are limiting the ability of students to accurately report on their lives, and that can have real consequences.

“It has become disturbingly routine for student journalists and their advisers to experience overt hostility that threatens their ability to inform the campus community and, in some instances, imperils their careers or the survival of their publications,” the report reads. It compiles recent examples of faculty adviser firings, defunded journalism programs, and denials of access to student journalists, arguing that the resistance to critical reporting is widespread and varied.

There’s certainly a case to be made for a free campus press in the abstract, about how honest reporting is a cornerstone of democracy and critically examining power structures is vital to education, but there are more concrete, urgent reasons that administrations need to stop censoring student newspapers. 2015’s highly visible campus protests about racial inequality show both that colleges regularly fail their marginalized students and that administrators are not always eager to hear about it, which gives student journalists the important task of demanding justice for the student body. But when universities can shut down or hamstring journalists in a number of ways, that task comes at great risk.

(Illustration by JD)


About Stewart Finnegan

In a perfect world, I'd be a professor who teaches poetry using episodes of mediocre sci-fi procedurals, but for now, I'm just a tutor who watches a lot of TV. I got my BA from Kalamazoo College in English with a focus on creative writing, and someday soon I'd like to go back to academia. Most of my formal teaching training was as a creative writing TA, but I've used those skills professionally more to tutor math and write data entry training materials. And though I'd like to focus my work on what I'm really passionate about (which is Netflix binges and outdated video games, mostly), it's the craft of teaching and writing that keeps me coming back. That's why I'm excited to be a part of High Faluter: I'm finding that academia doesn't just stay in academia. And if I can bring crappy midbrow entertainment into academia too, well, all the better. You can find me on Twitter: @StewartFinnegan