Patrick Yack, president of FSNE, editor of the Florida Times-Union, 904-359-4290.
Robert Leger, national president of SPJ, 417-836-1113 or cell 417-425-9140 or email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors today called on the University of Miami to support a student newspaper editor for his principled stand in support of freedom of the press.
Jordan Rodack was editor of the campus’ student newspaper, the Hurricane, last year. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, members of a University of Miami fraternity went across the campus with a video camera asking questions that denigrated Arabs and Muslims. A student complained, and the newspaper did a story. Rodack, a member of the fraternity, recused himself from discussions about the story.
Nevertheless, virtually every copy of that issue of the paper was removed from racks by members of the fraternity. Rodack was subjected to harassment from fraternity members, and eventually left the group.
The university initially disciplined students, but later rescinded that action without explanation.
The SPJ letter calls on University of Miami President Donna Shalala to acknowledge the university did not act quickly or properly against those who stole the newspapers or intimidated Rodack. It notes that even though the papers are free, precedent exists to punish those who deprive student journalists and advertisers from delivering a message. The letter also notes that the university has misinterpreted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to defend keeping secret the result of disciplinary actions. The act plainly allows for final results of disciplinary proceedings to be made public.
The FSNE letter said the handling of the Rodack case “raises serious questions about the university's commitment to ensuring a free and robust student press.” It also urged the administration to stop turning a blind eye toward the harassment of the student editor and his newspaper.
For copies of the letters, visit www.spj.org/FLLetter.pdf.