Threat to SPJ rescinded by University
Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 11:02
In a letter to Jaclyn Hirsch, president of the Quinnipiac chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Student Center Director Daniel Brown rescinded an earlier threat to ban the chapter from campus for aiding The Quad News.
The letter, which was dated Oct. 31, stated that there was never any intention to strip the chapter of its rights as an on-campus organization.
"The SPJ chapter is in no danger of being removed from campus," Brown wrote in the letter. "All of us appreciate the good work you are doing for the chapter and just want to be sure that scarce resources are used appropriately."
Early in the semester, Brown sent a letter to Hirsch, reprimanding the organization for its support of The Quad News. SPJ had allowed the student paper to share a meeting room and a table at the involvement fair. The Quad News has otherwise been denied these privileges because it is not a Quinnipiac organization.
Brown's earlier statement, which sparked much controversy with its perceived threat to take away SPJ's classification as a Quinnipiac organization, was meant only to ensure that university space is not used by non-university clubs. Belief that the chapter is in danger of being banned is due to "much misunderstanding," he said in the letter.
Responding to an Oct. 28 New York Times editorial that suggested that the Quinnipiac administration withdraw its threat to SPJ, Vice President for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell issued a statement in an e-mail sent by Associate Vice President Affairs John Morgan. In the letter, Bushnell acknowledged that the letter from Brown had been worded wrong, and stated that issues between The Quad News and the administration have been resolved.
"Students here at Quinnipiac have a clear voice, with many outlets in which to express that voice," the statement read. "The student papers are two such outlets, and a television station, Q30, and a radio station, WQAQ, also provide outlets for them."
The editorial also criticized the university's media policies, describing them as a "gag order on administrators, coaches, and athletes."
"Our internal policy for administrators is that they are expected to clear any media requests with the office of public relations before responding to a journalist's inquiry," read Bushnell's response. "Both newspapers (independent and university-supported) are aware of this university policy, and therefore often reach out to us directly prior to contacting an administrator. We have met with the editors of both papers to ensure their understanding of this policy."
Signs from the administration indicate the rift developed over the SPJ chapter's involvement with The Quad News early this semester has eased.
"I have received permission from Mark Thompson, who oversees funding from an anonymous donor, to take SPJ'ers to the spring 2009 conference, which will be April 24 and 25 in Philadelphia," said Professor Karin Schwanbeck, faculty advisor of Quinnipiac's SPJ chapter. "To me, that signals the administration accepts SPJ as a campus organization."
Hirsch was pleased with Bushnell's statement and Brown's letter.
"I am just grateful the statement was made by the university and that SPJ received, in writing, an explanation of the situation," she said. "I have spoken with Ms. Bushnell regarding issues about SPJ and The Quad News and have opened lines of communication between her office and myself."
Schwanbeck also foresees things moving in a positive direction.
"I believe the hard feelings among administrators that carried over into the beginning of the fall semester have waned. And for that, I am grateful," Schwanbeck said.
"It is time to move forward. We have great students, great faculty members and state-of-the-art equipment. It is time to re-focus on journalism."