Wednesday, September 12, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 1345



Staff Editorial


Jason C. Consolacion       Ed De La Garza 
Nikie Johnson          Christian Schmidt         Keenan Singleton

Right to ask

There's been a lot published in these pages lately about the right to a free press, free speech and all those other First Amendment goodies. Here at the Cougar, we've been called into question for various perceived transgressions.

Recent events at the Cougar, however, are no comparison to what recently happened at the University of Texas at Tyler. The UT-Tyler student
newspaper's adviser, Vanessa Curry, was dismissed after encouraging her students to practice aggressive reporting.

With Curry at the helm, the UT-Tyler Patriot was known for filing open records requests for administrator salaries, campus crime reports, donors'
pet projects and anything else it deemed newsworthy. It drew heavy criticism for this from officials; Provost David O'Keeffe said the requests
"raised some concern at the level of the administration ... (Students) aren't prepared to do that. They can do a lot of harm."

After dismissing Curry, administrators presented new policies for the Patriot, one of which allows senior administrators to determine "the
character and policies of all student publications" at the school, which has 3,300 students. Administrators would also choose the paper's editor,
a task previously performed by the adviser.

UT-Tyler's decision has raised a storm of criticism, especially from a council of journalism and communication schools in eight states. Fred
Blevins, president of the Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication, wrote a letter in which he criticized UT-Tyler
administrators for dismissing Curry without "due process" or "establishing just cause."

"It is essential that administrators in higher education recognize that teaching students about freedom of expression, and letting them practice it,
is a rudiment of the liberal traditional in education," Blevins wrote. "It is not a toy to be given and taken away at the whim of administrators who
fear embarrassment or accountability."

The right to freedom of expression is one of the most important rights we as Americans have, and we should find any infringement upon it
profoundly disturbing.

The UT-Tyler administration has been urged repeatedly to reconsider its decision to dismiss Curry, and we'd like to add our voices to the
chorus. Preventing students from practicing aggressive reporting while purporting to be preparing them for real journalistic careers is
unprofessional and hypocritical.

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