Profs under fire

A University of Kansas journalism professor was placed on indefinite administrative leave Friday for a tweet he wrote about the Navy Yard shootings which said, “blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters.”    (AP Sept. 20, 2013)

An outspoken Naval Academy professor will return to the classroom Wednesday after the academy closed an investigation spurred by complaints from midshipmen. Academy officials declined to provide details of the complaints against English professor Bruce Fleming, saying he should be afforded privacy and a presumption of innocence. “The investigation concluded and determined that Professor Fleming should return to his normal teaching duties,” Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman, said Tuesday.  (Baltimore Sun, Sept. 17, 2013)



USA Today covers RU Speechless



Bulletin boards have become a battleground at Radford University in Radford, Va., with students claiming university policies restrict their First Amendment rights.

The policy in question requires university approval for any flier students wish to hang on campus bulletin boards. Over the past semester, journalism professor Bill Kovarik has led a small movement called RU Speechless?, which protests this regulation, among other campus “censorship” policies, as prior restraint.


Story Published May 8, 2013 

Tartan covers RU Speechless

Speechles1 Speechless2Students in the First Amendment and Higher Education class are bearing flyers, a hard-hitting message and symbolically wearing red duct tape over their mouths, and have been rallying with faculty and other involved and driven students with the campaign they call “RU Speechless.”

RU Free Speech protest May 1

To protest Radford University policies restricting freedom of speech on campus, students and faculty rallied outside the Hurlburt student on May 1, 2013.

With the Faculty Senate, the Council of Deans and the Student Government Association all demanding reform of RU’s archaic prior restraint policies, and legal analysis showing clear faults in the policies, the RU administration has consistently shown bad faith in refusing to discuss issues.

The highlight of the protest was the signing of a large poster by dozens of students (right in the first photo) and an attempt by Prof. Kovarik to hand a flyer to Ken Bonk, the administrator who is in charge of enforcing anti-free speech policies at RU. Not only did Bonk refuse to accept the flyer, but he fled rapidly into the building while shouting something about errors in the flyer that he refused to discuss.


The crew of the May 1 protest (photo by Prof. Martin, who was also present).






Ken Bonk flees from Prof. Kovarik, who is attempting to hand him a flyer about Free Speech rights on campus, during the May 1 protest.


Suggestion: more bulletin boards

bulletin.board.RUHere’s one suggestion:  If the bulletin board space is so crowded at RU that it has to be censored, then why not expand the opportunities to post bulletins without censorship?

Details on the RUspeechless Facebook page.

They would only cost a few hundred dollars each.  And here’s what an outdoor bulletin board would look like.


Frat signs? No problem for Lexington

Frat.Lex.OXPh Frat.Lex.EAE Frat.Lexington

On a spring day in Lexington, Va., fraternity row openly sports Greek letters without any apparent unease from town officials. In fact, two of these houses are across the street from the police station.   The “animal house” fraternity is around the corner.  Just how similar signs might — in some imaginary universe — represent a threat to the peace and dignity of the City of Radford is one of life’s mysteries.  Yet the city persists not only in maintaing its unconstitutional fraternity sign ban,  but also in refusing to discuss the issues.

AAUP flyer on the May 1 protest

This is the American Association of University Professors flyer which The First Amendment / Higher Education class did not create.  However, who would argue that the AAUP does not have every right to create and distribute this flyer on campus?   Is it overstated?  Obviously.  But  sometimes that’s the point of the “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials” protected in the New York Times v Sullivan decision.    — Prof. Kovarik.


(1) “Free speech zones” that limit speech to tiny designated areas.

(2) Censorship of all postings on bulletin boards for faculty and students, requiring pre-stamping.

(3)  Censorship of everything posted in the dorms.

(4) Offering only about 12 “public” bulletin boards (limited to pre-stamped postings) on the entire campus located in out of the way places where students rarely go like the basement of Heth Hall.

(5)  Tight control of all email lists (but open to commercial interests).

(6) Prohibition of anyone handing out flyers or other materials anywhere on campus except from pre-approved tables in and around the Bonnie.

(7)  Collaboration with the city to limit the signs students can place on student housing.

[Co-sponsored by RU Chapter of the AAUP]


Mayday:  Wed. May 1st

Bonnie Plaza 10 AM to 1


National journalism teachers group opposes censorship

The Board of Directors of AEJMC declares that no legitimate pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism even if it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech is detrimental to effective learning and teaching, and it cannot be justified by reference to “pedagogical concerns.”


The full text of the resolution and press release follows:
For Immediate Release
April 2, 2013

Dr. Kyu Ho Youm, AEJMC President
(541) 346-2178

The Board of Directors of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) recently passed a resolution regarding the 25th Anniversary of the Supreme Court significantly reducing the level of First Amendment protection afforded to students’ journalistic speech in the case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier.

In the ruling, the Court’s 5-3 majority concluded that schools could lawfully censor student expressions in non-public forum media for any “legitimate pedagogical purpose,” and that among the recognized lawful purposes was the elimination of speech tending to “associate the school with any position other than neutrality on matters of political controversy”.

AEJMC President Kyu Ho Youm of the University of Oregon explains, “Being keenly aware of this year as the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, the AEJMC Board of Directors expresses its increasing concern about the negative impact of the case on freedom of the student press. This is all the more so, when the case has been expanded far enough to apply to the college press over the past 16 years. As the leading national organization of postsecondary journalism and mass communication educators, AEJMC wishes to express its strong stand on the unwarranted abuse of Hazelwood as an easy tool of censorship against student journalists on all levels, including that of colleges and universities”.

In recognition of society’s increased reliance on student news-gatherers to fulfill basic community information needs, and the importance of unfiltered information about the performance of educational institutions,

In recognition of the well-documented misapplication of Hazelwood censorship authority to impede the teaching of professional journalistic values and practices, which include the willingness to question the performance of governance institutions,

In recognition that the primary concern of the Supreme Court in Hazelwood was to permit schools to restrict editorial content “unsuitable for immature audiences”, a concern inapplicable at the postsecondary level.

In recognition of the combined 150 years’ experience of states with statutory student free-press guarantees, demonstrating that the Hazelwood level of administrative control is unnecessary for the advancement of legitimate educational objectives,

Be it resolved that:
The Board of Directors of AEJMC declares that no legitimate pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism even if it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech is detrimental to effective learning and teaching, and it cannot be justified by reference to “pedagogical concerns.”

Be it further resolved that:
The AEJMC Board of Directors declares that the Hazelwood level of control over student journalistic and editorial expression is incompatible with the effective teaching of journalistic skills, values and practices at the collegiate level, and that institutions of postsecondary education should forswear reliance on Hazelwood as a legitimate source of authority for the governance of student and educator expression.

The rise of the administrative university

By Glen Martin, for the RU AAUP, Oct. 2012

Books are beginning to appear about the nation-wide conversion of universities away from institutions dedicated to truth and knowledge and into a business model of education.  One such book is by Benjamin Ginsberg called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters (2011). Ginsberg chronicles the demise of academic freedom, tenure, and the traditional faculty-driven conception of a quality curriculum and the independent pursuit of truth.

Continue reading