Page 15


Happiness Is Printing By II? IFITURA PRESS ..c 1 Newspapers Magazines Political Specialists Signs and Placards Bumperstrips Office Supplies 100% Union Shop Phone 512/442-7836 1714 SOUTH CONGRESS P.O. BOX 3485 AUSTIN, TEXAS THE BEST Boonsronss 3 STORES 11\( DALLAg. 4635 McKinney Ave. 5219 West Lovers Lane 206 South Zang Shredding the First Amendment By Quinn T Michaelson Austin Once again hard times have fallen on The University of Texas. On the heels of UT Chancellor Charles LeMaistre’s controversial dismissal of UT-Austin President Stephen Spurr in late September, the System has suffered another, if smaller, black eye: censorship of the campus newspaper at UT-Permian ‘Basin in Odessa. IT ALL started when UTPB President B. H. Amstead, who is known for ruling the fledgling school with an iron hand, discovered a letter critical of LeMaistre and the UT regents in the Nov. 8 edition of The Windmill. After a cursory study of the letter, which was written by senior government student John Moseley, Amstead meted out a harsh punishment for all 1,300 copies of the paper: death by insertion into the school’s paper shredder. Amstead moved quickly to insure that The Windmill would not blow any further trouble his way. On the following Monday, Nov. 11, he ordered control of the newspaper transferred from Dr. Robert Rothstein, chairman of the school’s mass communications department, to the director of UTPB’s news and information service. And he attempted to reassign the paper’s editor, Joel Asbery, to a position as writer for UTPB’s Learning Resources Center. Asbery, true to his own journalistic calling, refused the new job. “I told him I wouldn’t accept any position with that university,” he declared. Amstead has contended that his shredding of The Windmill was entirely justified. Asbery, he said in a prepared statement, “knew that this publication is an informational one and would not be allowed to contain editorials, either condemning or adulatory in nature, slanderous material, mud-slinging or four-letter words.” Not so, said Asbery. Amstead had permitted editorials and editorial letters to be published if they carried the imprimatur of his representative, Rothstein. And, Asbery said, Rothstein had agreed to publish the offending epistle, but only “under protest.” “There was a lot of kidding around about forging my signature on the copy sheets,” said Rothstein. “Finally, I agreed to sign ‘under protest,’ but they knew I was against it.” Even Amstead admits there was room for misunderstanding. Asked if he had ever authorized Asbery to print editorials or letters in The Windmill, Amstead supplied this classic line: “Well, maybe I did. I don’t know what I told him.” The paper itself looks like nothing more than an eight-by-twelve, four-page newsletter, published weekly. Asbery points out, though, that students did work on the paper and that a degree of editorial life had been breathed into the “house organ” by the publication of other letters and editorials. The irony of Amstead’s effort to spare UTPB public embarassment is two-fold. His action has generated widespread publicity in the state’s press, including the printing of the offending letter in the San Angelo Standard Times. And the letter itself, taken as a whole, is quite mild. It quotes at length from an article written by Observer publisher Ronnie Dugger for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and describes the Spurr firing as “a deplorable act of a dictatorship.” What may have really piqued Amstead was Moseley’s conviction that charges by Spurr of regental meddling in UT’s internal affairs “point primarily at the Hon. Frank C. Erwin, Jr.” “I feel it is time that students and faculty unite and request the right of self-governance,” Mosely wrote. “If this right is denied by the board of regents, the chancellor, or the various campus administrations, I feel they should take their fight to the. courts. After all, this country was based on government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘It is not by consolidation or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected.’ ” Moseley went on to suggest that students, faculty and staff at UT institutions should become self-governing communities. “It seems to be that members of the administrative hierarchy of The University of Texas system have become the dominators concerning: freedom of the press, student government and hasty dismissal of faculty and staff. “The University of Texas of the Permian Basin would be, in my opinion, the perfect place to institute a greater participation by faculty and students in university governance. UTPB is supposed to be an innovative university, but as of yet I have only seen, to use an often used phrase at UTPB, innovation without change!” ASBERY HAS said he will not return to UTPB for the spring semester. “UTPB is definitely a failure of higher education in terms of its backward policies concerning newspapers . . . This place shouldn’t be called UTPB. It should be called the UT of B. H. Amstead,” said the ousted editor. UT System officials in Austin were aghast when they first learned of Amstead’s handling of the matter. “What?” gasped Mike Quinn, LeMaistre’s executive assistant. “You’re kidding. Come on. I just don’t believe it.” Now that they do believe it, UT officials point out that Amstead has been zealously dedicated’ to building the Odessa-based school, which opened its doors to upper-division college and graduate students in September, 1973, and presently has 1,600 students. Amstead, UT officials note, was so dedicated to lending a distinctive quality to UTPB that he obtained several peacocks to wander around the campus, ostensibly to serve as the school’s mascots. The peacocks, like The Windmill, met with an unkind fate. Coyotes from the West Texas plains apparently flocked to the campus for an uncommon feast. Perhaps a question asked Rothstein poses one of UTPB’s most serious problems in the wake of Amstead’s action. How can the school train future journalists in an atmosphere of blatant press censorship? “That,” replied Rothstein bravely, “is a very tough question.” November 29, 1974 13 4. >44404.