CMA sent the following letter Dec. 12 to Denise M. Trauth, president of Texas State University, and Connor Clegg, the university's student body president, in response to actions that the CMA board believes could constitute university interference in the operations of the independent student newspaper, The University Star.
December 12, 2017
Denise M. Trauth
President, Texas State University
Student Body President, Texas State University
Dear President Trauth and President Clegg:
We, the board members of College Media Association, are concerned about efforts by the Texas State University administration and student government that threaten to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of your own students at The University Star.
Though we understand your concern surrounding the Nov. 28, 2017, opinion piece titled “Your DNA is an Abomination,” we urge to you refrain from punitive measures against what should be an independent student media outlet. Threats of financial or administrative retaliation for expressions of opinion represent attempts at censorship of legally protected speech. As university leaders, you certainly could enter into conversation with Texas State’s collegiate journalists. Debate, after all, is what makes a democracy strong. However, when you seek to require the press to hew to your point of view or else be starved of funds, then you not only limit civic discourse but stray far from the democratic principles of freedom of expression.
We represent hundreds of college media advisers and students across North America. Our mission is to help build strong media programs in which students enjoy the benefits of free speech and free press. We seek to educate aspiring media professionals so they can graduate with the skills to be effective communicators and engaged citizens. It is only through a free and unfettered press that your students can carry out a dialogue that benefits them and their peers—to learn to be decision-makers and civic leaders. You can support this process by encouraging debate in the marketplace of ideas. To say that some ideas are welcome while others must be censored by governmental agencies, which you both represent, should strike every American as abhorrent. Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that government interference in the content decisions of a free press is unconstitutional.
As educators, we were encouraged to read in the Dec. 1, 2017, American-Statesman that SJMC Director Judy Oskam believes it is “essential to recognize that independent student-run publications such as The University Star operate under the same constitutional protections afforded to other newspapers.” We hope that all stakeholders—yourselves included—find a way to respect the student voice and the decisions made by your student journalists.
We would welcome the opportunity to help you develop a stronger media program: one that benefits all students at your university. I encourage you to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
College Media Association
Laura Krantz; Director, The University Star Denise Cervantes; Editor-in-Chief, The University Star