‘Unwarranted Minaret Eviction’: U. of Tampa Student Newspaper Forced from Newsroom, Relocated to Much Smaller Space
Update, Friday April 24th: University officials have reversed their decision and cancelled the eviction.
@collegemedia The administration has cancelled the eviction! Thanks for taking an interest in this.
— Tiffini Theisen (@tiffinit) April 24, 2015
— Minaret (@Minaret) April 24, 2015
Start of original post, from Thursday April 23rd:
The Minaret at the University of Tampa has been evicted from its newsroom in the campus student center and shoved into a nearby space roughly half the size. The required relocation was ordered without input from staffers, the paper’s faculty adviser or anyone else connected to student media or journalism education at the school.
In a meeting on Monday — timed curiously to occur when current faculty adviser Tiffini Theisen was teaching and so could not attend — administrators surprised a pair of top Minaret staffers and an incoming faculty adviser/journalism professor with news about the move. School officials told them the Student Conduct Office needed the newsroom space more than the student newspaper — which has occupied it for more than a decade.
As Theisen wrote in an email to admins and Minaret supporters, “Less than 24 hours after that, moving boxes were dumped onto busy students during the most hectic time of the semester, in a grim indication that the decision was final and it would be up to them to take on the enormous task of packing the entire office in their ‘spare’ time.”
While initially assured by officials that the new newsroom was “not substantially smaller” than the paper’s current digs, staffers measured it themselves and found their editorial operations center had shrunk from 770 square feet to around 330 square feet. (The school officially lists the new space at 412 square feet.)
The staff, advisers and other journalism supporters at the school are frustrated not only by the relocation’s practical challenges — including fitting “an editorial staff of 18, eight Apple desktops and over $2,000 worth of multimedia equipment into half the space” — but also by the manner in which it was thrust upon them.
Sudden. Surreptitious. Undemocratic. And heavy-handed.
In an editorial published earlier today — headlined “Unwarranted Minaret Eviction” — the paper shared, “As a staff we are shocked and greatly disappointed in the unprofessional manner our ‘move’ was conducted. We work tirelessly to provide students with quality news and opportunities to pursue journalistic studies. As students of the University of Tampa we feel slighted by the administration that is supposed to have our best interests in mind. There are many ways we could all have worked together to establish a relocation plan.”
One additional troubling component related to the way this current plan has been carried out: “The move goes against the wishes of the late Kathryn Hill Turner, a UT donor who specifically earmarked the Minaret’s current space to be its permanent newsroom.”
Turner’s son, J. Hill Turner, has written the university’s dean of students to voice his displeasure. The Minaret included a portion of his email in today’s editorial:
“Many years ago my late mother Kathryn Hill Turner worked tirelessly as an advocate of the Minaret and as a volunteer of The Chiselers to establish that very office that is now on the block to be repurposed. My mother understood the importance of the student paper and their need for a permanent place they could call their own for publishing the student paper.”
Note: I previously served as an assistant professor of journalism and Minaret faculty adviser at UT. To confirm, I had no advance knowledge of this eviction decision — putting me in the same boat as the paper’s current staff, advisers and supporters.