Update: No Funding Cuts for Collegiate Times After All
First, the threats. Next, the bad press. Now, the retreat. After a quick burst of mostly negative media attention nationwide and the specter of a brewing legal battle, Virginia Tech officials are backing down from their earlier call for funding cuts to the Collegiate Times student newspaper.
As the Roanoke Times reports, “Virginia Tech will not pull funding for the publisher of the campus newspaper, nor will it ban student organizations from buying ads with university funds, as a Tech advisory group had proposed, officials announced Friday. . . The commission, an advisory group made up of students, faculty and staff, had objected to a CT editorial policy that allows anonymous reader comments to be posted to collegiatetimes.com. Some of the commission members had characterized some of the comments as homophobic, racist or otherwise offensive and demanded the CT take action to stop them. Ongoing discussions between the groups about the policy had broken down last week.”
My take: This is one more example of a very serious, very genuine truth within modern collegemediatopia: It is tougher than ever to mess with the student press. The organizational backing on a national level (FIRE, SPLC, ACP, etc.) has never been stronger. The Web also enables a rapid response scenario in which the professional press, the blogosphere, and the Twitter-verse can immediately band together, offer advice and other assistance, and spread the word about an injustice worldwide, creating a John-Mayer-Playboy-interview-sized PR nightmare for student press opponents.
This connectivity breeds empowerment. It is obvious that student media outlets today feel much more secure drawing firm lines in the sand over a controversial issue because they know they will not be alone when times get tough. In this respect, the Virginia Tech commission that took on the Collegiate Times this past week is not stupid. It is naive. It did not realize, in modern times, a fight against the CT is also a fight against collegemediatopia, free press advocates, and the very power of the Web itself.