SMU Censors Daily Campus Article Criticizing School’s Board of Trustees

An ironic case of student press censorship at Southern Methodist University. Last week, administrators at the private university near Dallas removed an opinion piece from a special print edition of The Daily Campus, SMU’s student newspaper.

The piece’s topic: the lack of transparency and student input into the goings-on of the school’s Board of Trustees.  As Daily Campus interim editor-in-chief Jessica Huseman, who wrote the piece, told the Student Press Law Center, “Nixing an article about transparency is not only a poor decision, it’s an extremely ironic one.”

To be clear, the article is live online.  It was held solely from the print version of an orientation issue published each summer and mailed to incoming SMU freshmen. The Daily Campus is independent of the university, allowing prior administrative review of only this issue each year in exchange for the froshies’ contact info.  This is the first time a piece has been pulled since this arrangement was put in place in 2007.

SMU’s dean of students told the SPLC the column was censored “because we didn’t want students to get a distorted view of how the university operates.”

My take: Apart from the obviously repugnant censorship involved, the dean’s rationale for it is troubling on several levels.  Most prominently, it is a potshot at the paper’s editorial leadership.  Defining something as a distortion is equivalent to calling it a lie (or at least a callous exaggeration).  The dean is thus implying the Daily Campus eds. either purposefully attempted to publish lies or were too ignorant to see them as lies.

It’s also a slap in the faces of the SMU class of 2015.  We obviously know what’s going on here.  God forbid incoming students read anything even slightly negative about the school prior to arriving on campus in August.  Can SMU really not trust its enrollees to discern the difference between quality journalism and distortion on their own?

For what it’s worth, here’s a portion of the column, headlined “Board Transparency is Long Overdue,” which on spec seems quite well-written and well-reasoned:

“For years, SMU has ignored calls to increase the board’s level of transparency. After it was discovered that the Board of Trustees authorized payments to football players resulting in the ‘death penalty,’ which SMU football is still recovering from, the United Methodist Church called for open board meetings to prevent such underhanded actions from happening again. It was ignored.  More than 20 years later, the recommendation has still not been put into effect. The result is a board that has largely ignored term limits for members (the term limit is 12 years, though the longest serving member has served on the board since 1976), has little diversity (the majority of the board is rich, white males) and rejects the idea that the student body should have any idea what is going on behind the board’s tightly closed doors. . . . To ignore the viewpoints of a student body that is paying almost $50,000 a year to attend school at this venerable institution is mind boggling. It is my hope that this year, things will be different.”

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5 Responses to “SMU Censors Daily Campus Article Criticizing School’s Board of Trustees”
  1. billiakbar says:

    Section 2.01 of SMU’s Student Code of Conduct (http://bit.ly/k1A6Ml) says, “All students of the University are citizens of the community and members of the University, and as such are guaranteed freedom of expression, inquiry, and assembly.” Although private universities are not subject to the First Amendment as public universities are, such a guarantee is revealed to be empty verbiage if not supported in practice.

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  4. […] interim editor-in-chief Jessica Huseman, who wrote the piece, told the Student Press Law Center (http://collegemediamatters.com/2011/06/09/smu-censors-daily-campus-article-criticizing-schools-board…) “Nixing an article about transparency is not only a poor decision, it’s an extremely ironic […]



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