Letter to the Editor from Nancy Whitmore, Director of Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism

Much has been said and written lately about the change in advisers at The Butler Collegian. While I am reluctant to add to the discourse about what is a private employment matter, I feel compelled to briefly respond to concerns surrounding the question of editorial independence and freedom of speech at The Butler Collegian.

For more than a century, The Butler Collegian has served as an independent student news organization, providing all students regardless of their major or academic expertise with a platform to express student views and investigate issues of concern to students. As an independent, free and dynamic student voice, The Butler Collegian has been an important part of the academic mission of Butler University in its quest to provide an educational environment built upon open inquiry and interactive dialogue.

Moreover and without question, the effective operation of Butler’s student-directed news organization is central to the mission of the Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism. For many students, The Butler Collegian has been a fundamental component of their journalism education, and the skills, knowledge and leadership experience they obtained through their work on The Collegian has proved instrumental in their success upon graduation.

Given the importance the School of Journalism places on The Butler Collegian and the School’s commitment to securing a stable educational environment for The Collegian staff, the determination to change advisers was made after careful consideration and involved a personnel decision with which I agree and strongly believe is in the best interest of the students, the School of Journalism and The Butler Collegian. The idea that the decision was made to suppress The Collegian in some way or to limit freedom of speech is quite simply untrue.

I want to assure the Butler community that as director of The Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism my commitment to securing the widest latitude of editorial freedom for our student journalists is longstanding and unwavering. The Collegian has been built upon a model of strict separation between the expressive freedom of administrators, faculty and staff and the editorial freedom of student journalists, and I am steadfast in my obligation to maintain that separation and preserve The Butler Collegian as the voice of the students.

Moving forward, I will be working with the Editor in Chief of The Collegian to identify candidates who have the expertise and character to advise the student news organization as it transitions to a digital-first production and publication strategy and experiments with new forms of storytelling while producing quality journalism. The final approval regarding the choice of the adviser will reside with the Editor in Chief in consultation with The Collegian staff.

Nancy Whitmore, Ph.D.

Professor and Director

Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Bill Watts said:

    Dear Professor Whitmore,

    I assume that your letter is an indirect and partial response to the letter I addressed to Dean Edgerton and President Danko. For this reason, I thank you for it. I also thank you for your assurances that the Collegian will remain an independent student newspaper.

    I do, however, have one important question to ask you: Is the Collegian handbook still in force? While I do not myself have a copy of this handbook, I understand that one of its purposes is to preserve and guarantee the indpependence of the Collegian. I also understand that this change in advisor–which has come at an unexpected point in the academic year–was not done in accordance with the provisions of the handbook.

    And so, I ask you: do you, and other administrators who have some role in oveseeing the Collegian, plan to observe the provisions of the handbook?

    Sincerely,
    Bill Watts

  2. Bill Watts said:

    Dear Professor Whitmore,

    To follow up on my earlier post, I have now acquired a copy of the Butler Collegian handbook. I note this passage on “Editorial Freedom” from page 13 of the handbook:

    “Therefore, the editors, managers, staff writers and the adviser of The Collegian shall be protected
    from arbitrary suspension and removal because of student, faculty, staff, administrative or public
    disapproval of editorial policy or content. Only for proper and clearly stated causes may those
    individuals be removed and then by orderly and prescribed procedures.”

    Can you confirm that this policy has been observed in the removal of Ms. McKown?

    Yours,
    Bill Watts

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