Student publication strives to uphold First Amendment rights

December 15, 2016


Staff Reporter | kjk019@latech.edu



In its years as “the student voice of Louisiana Tech University,” The Tech Talk has had little problem — if any —  with prior restraint from the university. However, censorship has emerged as an issue at a growing number of other campuses nationwide.



According to an article from Poynter, many incidents of censorship have recently occurred involving the student press, from the University of Missouri to Wesleyan University. The article said censorship ranged in form from dismissing faculty members to the threat of a decline in truly student-run publications.



Donald Kaczvinsky, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Tech, said that censorship was a complex issue, especially in the current tumultuous climate following the presidential elections. He said Tech had helped to prevent forms of censorship from happening thus far by supporting the student-run journalism newspaper and free speech on campus.



“At Tech, we have a policy of free speech, and college is exactly the place to debate and discuss some of these difficult issues as long as it has is done with respect for others,” he said.



Kaczvinsky said The Tech Talk benefitted the campus in a number of ways, from providing relevant news to allowing the students involved in the program itself to gain skills in areas such as research, communication and critical thinking.


“A student-run newspaper allows free expression without necessarily either speaking for the university or a particular group,” he said. “The students speak for themselves and are not a mouthpiece for the university. It also encourages the kind of diverse views and fact-based reporting that is getting to be uncommon in social media outlets.”


Les Guice, university president, said the student newspaper on campus served as a source of diverse opinions.


“Listening to the views of others is an important aspect of a university environment, and I believe that begins by listening to the views of our students,” he said. “A student-run newspaper is one of the best ways to capture those views.”


Guice said that Tech’s publication provided a strong foundation and framework for journalism and learning at the university.


“The Tech Talk has been a cornerstone of our journalism program for decades and it has been run by our journalism students with mentorship from journalism faculty,” he said. “Our faculty have done an excellent job of ensuring that The Tech Talk maintains its purpose as an educational tool and a student voice.”


T. Scott Boatright, a newspaper adviser to the journalism curriculum at Tech, said in the role of overseeing the learning process of students, faculty and advisers to the program worked to support student’s ideas and creativity.


“If a student comes up with a story idea that is viable that they want to do, we are not going to censor that idea,” he said. “We may help them and advise them in directions they want to take with it, but unless there is any kind of libel involved or anything unethical, we aren’t going to stop it.”


Boatright said that the administration had also allowed the newspaper to operate without censure.


“We have had an issue from time to time over the years where they’ve addressed some concerns, but those have always been handled,” he said. “They’ve never quashed or had punitive actions against the newspaper, against The Tech Talk, even if they didn’t agree.”


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