Chicago St. Censorship: School Says No to Current Tempo

This just in: The censorship saga at Chicago State University continues, in part thanks to student staffers who won’t back down and school administrators who need to grow up.


There has been a battle brewing for some time now amid allegations of editorial and financial censorship against The Tempo student newspaper.  The latest, according to a Student Press Law Center report: The newly-installed adviser of Tempo is refusing to allow the current issue of the paper to be published.  Apparently, it’s because he does not think there is enough original, quality content.  Critics see it as just one more attempt to stop the paper from running pieces negative of the school administration.

The paper’s student editor wrote in an e-mail to CSU admins: “This week’s decision to stop the presses is particularly disheartening.  It not only further depresses the morale of a vastly depleted staff who has felt like an orphaned child by virtue of the administration’s inattentiveness to its needs, but it is also evidence of a cavalier attitude towards the rights and expectations of students.”

My take: The new adviser should be fired, rehired, and then fired again.  Then, and only then, will he possibly know what it’s like to put together a paper only to have it pulled out from under you at the last second due to forces outside your control.  Student media quality varies, issue by issue, staff by staff, semester by semester.  It is the nature of the beast.  Unless there is truly material that is libelous or downright sophomoric, he needs to ensure the paper sticks to its deadlines, face the fact that he screwed up by not looking at the material prior to final page proofs, and respect that readers will lose trust in a product that is not presented to them on the day that they expect it.


And if the content is truly subpar, so be it.  You’ll get it better next time.  An adviser’s greatest gift: allowing j-students to fail and to learn from their mistakes.

4 Responses to “Chicago St. Censorship: School Says No to Current Tempo”
  1. Allan says:

    “…(the adviser) needs to ensure the paper sticks to its deadlines, face the fact that he screwed up by not looking at the material prior to final page proofs…”

    Wrong. The adviser has no business looking at page proofs. This is prior review, which is censorship. If a student editor asks an adviser to look at one story for advice, that’s OK, but your post claims that the adviser made a mistake by not looking at the page proofs.

  2. Dan Reimold says:

    Allan- Good to hear from you. It’s of course a valid, idealistic point. I’ve spent time at many student pubs under school control, however, and have observed first-hand that prior review of some kind is the ugly step-cousin in the room. When this is the case, the least the adviser or dean should do is keep in touch with staff throughout the process to attempt to identify anything that may be controversial or worth a second look *before* final page proofs are complete. Some conflicts on individual stories are a given. An adviser rejecting an entire issue so late in the game is just heinously wrong.

  3. Allan says:


    I misread your original post. I had mistakenly thought that you were advocating the adviser read page proofs. Sorry about that.

    I still want to emphasize to your readers that the adviser and dean have no business reading anything in the student newspaper until after it has been published. If the adviser or dean demand to read anything in the newspaper prior to publication, that is prior review, a form of censorship, which must not be allowed. The exception would be if a student journalist were to voluntarily ask the adviser to read a story and provide feedback before publication — that is OK. Under no circumstances should the dean see anything prior to publication. We are talking about college newspapers, not high school papers, and college students must operate freely without prior review if they are to learn from their mistakes and if they are to have the opportunity to develop their voices as writers and to develop responsibility for their work. For more on this topic:

  4. Allan says:

    From my Web site:

    Students learn best when they have the freedom to follow their own conscience, discover what works for them and find their own voice. For example, Tim Guy, editor-in-chief of the student newspaper at Riverside Community College, said he and his fellow student journalists benefited in 2004 by having the freedom to take responsibility for their work when they produced a national Pacemaker newspaper. Guy said: “It helped knowing that the staff and I did not have various people watching our every move to make sure it was appropriate, being able to decide for ourselves what was best to be in the paper.” Kevin Pearson, winner of a national first place story of the year award in 2000 at Riverside Community College, demonstrated the kind of bold approach to journalism that Merrill advocated in his call for journalistic autonomy. Pearson said: “We didn’t sugar-coat the news, as too many college papers often do, and we reported what we saw, what we knew, and did so with our journalistic integrity in mind.” And Agnes Diggs exercised both freedom and responsibility in her student journalism when she exposed problems at Long Beach City College with nonexistent classes and at Chapman University with a football eligibility scandal. Diggs said: “Knowing I have the protection of the U.S. Constitution and being aware of the attendant responsibility makes me more tenacious and more careful when reporting and writing.”