We stand with The Battalion
Last week, the Texas A&M University President M. Katherine Banks gave The Battalion — A&M’s student newspaper — a 24-hour notice that they would have to stop printing despite being self-funded by advertisements, ahead of the paper being rolled into the university’s new journalism department. The administration made these calls without any consultation or even warning to the students or their faculty advisor, informing them that if they chose to remain a student organization, they would potentially lose their office and faculty advisor.
Without any clear details on how this transition would work or what would happen to the staff, other than the requirement to transition the 129-year old publication to online only, the administration’s overuse of power here is a blatant attack on free press.
By Friday afternoon, the president had walked the decision back to “allow” the paper to continue print editions through the remainder of the semester. However, this concession does nothing to address the core issue: university administration using their positions to lord their power over student media, undermining the editorial independence of college journalism.
We are fortunate at the Thresher to have an administration that respects us as a newspaper, even when we criticize or question them, often on this page. But at a private institution like Rice, we technically have fewer baseline rights than student journalists at public institutions; a fact that allowed President Leebron to unilaterally sell KTRU’s station and tower in 2010 without warning or explanation. Given that student journalists at state schools like A&M receive more coverage from free press laws than we do, the decision by Banks and the A&M administration is that much more egregious.
With rising rates of misinformation, falling levels of trust in journalism and the United States being ranked as a “problematic” place for journalists in 2019, ensuring a free press is more important than ever. Banks, despite claiming that she supports freedom of the press and that the new journalism department is reflective of that, is acting in opposition to that by pushing The Battalion into a position that allows more administrative oversight of their content.
As a board of student journalists, we empathize with what the staff at The Batt are going through. The Thresher stands with the staff at The Battalion.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage, Daniel Schrager and Brandon Chen.
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