Student Press Censorship?

Student journalists at Oklahoma State University want freedom of the press.

Lenzy Krehbiel, co-editor of The Daily O’Collegian, says the school’s president refuses "to sign a statement asserting the complete independence of the student newspaper," reports Student Press Law Center.

The latest incident concerns President George W. Bush’s recently announced visit to campus to give the spring commencement speech.

When "rumors" of the President’s trip were heard, student journalists contacted the university’s public relations office for confirmation. But, according to the article by the Student Press Law Center, PR Chief Gary Shutt "threatened to call the director of the journalism program if the paper published anything about Bush’s visit."

"We were told Monday, ‘If you’re running this story, I will call the head of your school,’" said Krehbiel, who took the remarks as "censorship." The article goes on to report that, according to Krehbiel, the journalism school’s director has no editorial control and that students make all content decisions for the paper.

However, Shutt claims he only "urged" the paper to wait for an "official announcement" as the White House indicated that any "premature announcement" would "jeopardize" the visit, reports the Student Press Law Center.

"I never told them I was censoring them, I never told them I was going to stop them," Shutt said. "In my mind, because of the circumstance…the thing to do is call the head of the school over the newspaper."

The article also notes that in The Daily O’Collegian’s coverage of the incident, the paper reported [] that university president David Schmidly did not authorize Shutt "to make such remarks to student journalists."

"That’s not good," Schmidly said in the article. "I’ll tell him we don’t need to be doing that in the future."

"It seems like further validation that the university doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to freedom of press," Krehbiel said. "They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk."

However, Shutt said the president "recognizes the independence of the student newspaper, but that White House officials might have viewed the student newspaper as part of the university," reports the Student Press Law Center.