Written by: Will Lewis
President William McKinney is reviewing a document that will cement the independent relationship between all student media and VSU.
McKinney has been conferencing with his cabinet and counsel, and they are expected to reach a decision soon.
The Student Press Law Center issued the Model Guidelines for College Student Media in 2009. McKinney was handed the document at a Communications Board meeting on Nov. 21, where he said a decision could be expected by Jan. 13.
McKinney seemed excited at the opportunity to formally acknowledge the editorial control of student media.
“You will really have to search far and wide for a more staunch defender of first amendment rights than me,” McKinney said at the Nov. 21 meeting.
The Media Guidelines will provide a definite line separating student media from administrators’ power.
“Students who work on official, college-sponsored student media determine the content of their respective media organizations and are responsible for that content,” the document read.
The guidelines would protect student media from any administrative repercussions for content, barring obscenity, libel, material that violates an individual’s privacy or causes major disruption on campus. Most of the activities mentioned in the exemptions are already considered illegal under state law.
The document calls for colleges to respect the freedom of speech for student media, even in regards to controversial topics.
“College officials have a responsibility to protect advocates of unpopular views,” the guidelines read.
Beyond students, faculty advisers are also protected. The document says that an adviser can’t be “fired, transferred or removed from their position” because he/she refused to exercise control over content.
VSU administration would also benefit from the deal.
“As recognized by several courts, the college assumes no liability for the content of any student media over which it exercises no editorial control,” the guidelines read.
The SPLC is an organization with the goal of providing legal assistance to student journalists across the country. According to their website, they have approximately 150 lawyers working to defend students’ first amendment rights.