As you know, we had our Welcome Day at the university this Saturday, April 6, 2019. Welcome Day was meant to greet potential students and show them what the University of Massachusetts Boston has to offer. Unfortunately, UMass Boston had a bit more to offer, other than clubs, activities and academics.
On Friday, April 5, 2019, the Mass Media, UMass Boston’s independent student-run newspaper, was asked by the university to remove its newspapers from the stands as the front page was covering the hazmat incident that had occurred in the Residence halls. As the Mass Media Editor-in-Chief, I politely declined the request, per our freedom given by the First Amendment, which as a public university we are protected by. Upon arrival at Welcome Day on Saturday morning, I was sent a photo of an empty stand on the first floor of University Hall, which has never been completely emptied by students and was checked on Friday to make sure it was stocked. I went and grabbed a few stacks of papers to refill the empty stands on the Upper Level of the Campus Center, and the first floor of University Hall. After arriving at University Hall, I was approached by two UMass Boston staff members from the admissions office. Not only was the stand empty, but it was being used as a coat rack for one of their jackets. I was asked by the first person if I would not put up the papers just yet, until they called the second person over. I responded to this by letting them know that I asked for the papers not to be removed, but they were removed anyway, and I would be restocking our paper stand. I referred them to my advisor if they had any further questions. Although they said they wanted them off just for the day because “it is bad publicity for the university,” they let me refill the stand.
After about 15–20 minutes later, I received a second photo of the stand, which had all of the papers turned around so you could not see the front page and had a jacket hanging on the back on the stand. I went back to the stand, by which time the jacket had been removed, and I flipped the papers back over to their front page.
The actions done by the admissions office are a poor representation of the university staff, and they are also an infringement on our rights as a publication. As stated on the Student Press Law Center, “The courts have ruled that if a school creates a student news medium and allows students to serve as editors, the First Amendment drastically limits the school’s ability to censor. Among the censoring actions the courts have prohibited are confiscating copies of publications, requiring prior review, removing objectionable material, limiting circulation, suspending editors and withdrawing or reducing financial support. (The Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood ruling gives administrators at K–12 schools added leeway to censor some publications, but—with the exception of one federal court ruling impacting only Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois—no court has given college officials the Hazelwood level of authority over student media.)” (Question #1, FAQ’s Page at SPLC.org).
I feel disrespected as a representative of the paper and hold the paper to the highest standards I am capable of. The article published was not false information, and there was no need for censorship. It is disheartening to know that the university cares more about covering up its mistakes, rather than supporting the students who worked hard to produce a reliable, non-biased, factual paper.
I expect actions to be taken on the disrespect towards the paper, to myself and my staff. These can include a meeting with those involved and Chancellor Newman, a written and oral apology, as well as possibly implementing some sort of training on the rights of publications at this university. The apology will be published in the paper. Please refer to this link for FAQ’s about our rights as a publication at the university: https://splc.org/college-faqs/
Thank you for your time,
Editor-in-Chief of the Mass Media