A not-so-Friendly gesture

By on September 19, 2007

According to the university’s Web site, the Fred Friendly Award is presented each year to a journalist by the School of Communications “to honor those who have shown courage and forthrightness in preserving the rights set forth in the First Amendment.”

Hold up.

Before the university hands out awards to world-renowned journalists for their courageous preservation of arguably the most important right we as Americans hold, freedom of speech, they should take a look at themselves in the mirror. They might find the reflection surprising.

In every journalism class I have taken here at Quinnipiac University, I have learned that as a journalist you must utilize your freedom of speech to the best of your ability. In my eyes, the goal of a journalist is to open other people’s eyes to the truth, and to inform them of what is happening in the world around them. In my experiences with The Chronicle I have always felt that I had the opportunity to inform the community. That all changed in the opening week of this school year.

Given the recent racial incidents on campus, and the now campus-wide discussion on campus diversity, I feel that now, more than at any other time, the students need to be informed. Despite how the university feels, the students deserve the right to know what is happening at their school.

The Chronicle learned about the racial incident at the same time every other student on this campus did, on Aug. 30, through an e-mail from Dean of Students Manuel Carreiro. The Chronicle, as avid journalists would, wanted to find out more details, so it could inform the Quinnipiac community. The Chronicle learned more about what had happened by interviewing Carreiro and a Quinnipiac professor. The Chronicle also got the opportunity to interview the student on whose door the racial slur was written.

With The Chronicle set to come out with its first issue two weeks later on Sept. 12, a decision was made to post the story on QUChronicle.com as an “online exclusive.” But the Quinnipiac administration had different plans.

The Chronicle was told by QU higher-ups that they were not allowed to post the story on the newspaper’s Web site. They cited a document that The Chronicle and Quinnipiac administration agreed to following the urination incident involving two basketball players (“Basketball players suspended,” Nov. 15). The Chronicle’s agreement with the university stipulates that the student paper cannot publish articles regarding disciplinary proceedings in school until the matter has been adjudicated or the facts made public. Also, and more problematically, the agreement states that The Chronicle’s Web site cannot be updated until the print edition of the paper has been published.

The administration claimed they were protecting student rights. Are they sure they didn’t mean self-image? After the urination story broke loose last semester, the school claimed that The Chronicle used inaccurate reporting in its story. Although no inaccuracies were ultimately found, the university still modified the policies under which The Chronicle is run.

As a private institution Quinnipiac has the right to do this. But is it the right thing to do?

What would Fred Friendly think about this? I wonder if he would still allow Quinnipiac University to use his name on an award honoring freedom of speech after learning that the university has implemented an agreement that places restricitons on what The Chronicle can report and when those reports can be published.

Friendly, who passed away in 1998, was someone who would dig deep for the truth. In 1954, on his television show “See It Now,” Friendly used his freedom of speech to help reveal the truths behind McCarthyism.

While Quinnipiac halts The Chronicle in its path to reveal the truth, one can only wonder if they have something to hide.

Quinnipiac is a learning institution and is supposed to prepare its students for the real world. It is supposed to give its students the opportunity to grow as individuals. In a case such as this, the university is stunting the growth of the student. How does this prepare journalists for their profession?

As a student journalist at this university, writing for The Chronicle is the best way to utilize the skills my well-qualified professors have taught me. However, I find myself in a cloud of confusion. The university’s professors teach us how to do something, and then the university itself doesn’t let us do it.

What would you do Fred?


About Jason Braff