Students at Odds with President Over Gargoyle

An article written for Flagler College’s publication, The Gargoyle, then edited by the administration has students, faculty and the president’s office at odds over the role and future of the newspaper.

President William Abare said the college has the right to control the content of the paper, but students and faculty are demanding a free voice.

The Unity Article

In this case, his administration edited the Unity article before he saw it due to inaccuracies, said Abare.

“Even the revised article suggests somehow that the decision (to approve Unity) is sitting on the corner of my desk, that I’m somehow dragging my feet,” he said. “That is not at all accurate.”

He said he never saw an application for the club, which he says did not follow the correct path for approval. It missed the first step, which is approval by the Student Government Association.

“There were some steps that were unfortunately left out,” Abare said. “In no way has an official petition for the club come to my office for consideration for action.”

He said that because of the time between editions, it would make more sense to correct an error rather than knowingly publish it and then write a correction.

“I think in this situation, it was simply a matter of trying to represent more accurately what was going on,” he said.

Redemske said that if there are inaccuracies, they were provided by Dean of Student Services Dan Stewart.

“When I sat down with Dean Stewart, he told me categorically that he got the proposal and took it to President Abare,” said Redemske. ” The administration had broken their own protocol.”

Stewart said he mentioned the article to Abare, but never brought him the written constitution. He said he’s been reviewing the six-page document since it was submitted in February. It’s now on its way to the Student Government Association.

The students on staff, who recently won two regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, are either volunteering their time to get published clips, or students who are taking a publications workshop listed as a communications class. Most of the editors are journalism majors.

“It’s a buzz in the communications department, substantially,” said Professor Rob Armstrong, who worked as a journalist for 32 years. “The administration, which I emphasize has the right to do so, has chosen to stifle the free flow of information.”

He said it’s a confusing message to send to the students, who are learning about the value of the First Amendment and the public’s right to know.

But Abare said they’re confusing what The Gargoyle is. The distinction, he said, is between a college newspaper and a student newspaper. Independent student newspapers, such as The Alligator for the University of Florida students, are published off campus with money raised from ads and other resources. The Gargoyle is created on-campus and funded in most part by the school.

“If the students want to create a paper modeled after The Alligator, “They can do that right now,” said Abare.

Professor Armstrong said that while other private universities have policies that require the administration to leave the college publication alone, he didn’t think that would work at Flagler.

“The message here is the administration owns the candy store, and they’re going to exercise control over it,” he said.

Reprinted with permission from The St. Augustine Record

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