Page 11


becomes issue at ETSU The paper began devoting more space to matters such as the “Gupta affair.” In August, the ETSU Board of Regents unanimously voted to terminate the contract of Dr. Sujoy Gupta, a tenured faculty member in earth sciences. Gupta was highly controversial, and his dismissal had been under consideration for several months. The East Texan was ciritcal of the manner in which the affair was handled by the administration. Gupta was accused of “unprofessional behavior” and of obstructing functions of this department. Goddard said “no real explanation has been made public 7 . . for Gupta’s firing.” “I do not know if Gupta is guilty or not,” Goddard said. “I am concerned that he is given a fair shake by the university.” Goddard said university officials refused to confirm “even the simplest neutral fact concerning the issue.” He said the administration was attempting to censor the media “by refusing to release any information concerning the Gupta case.” Both the faculty Hearing Committee and the Board of Regents considered the matter in closed meetings. Goddard, in an East Texan editorial, asked: So what does the university have to hide? As a public institution supported by public fundsevery hearing and meeting should be open to public scrutiny. The university has an obligation to explain its actions fully. In order to formulate an independent conclusion unclouded by rumor and hearsay, the public and press should be allowed to attend any gathering that affects the university and its employees . . . . ETSU vice president Barry Thompson, in turn, accused The East Texan of “slanting the news” and “presenting the administration as being cold and heartless.” He said East Texan editorials were “totally without basis.” Thompson said the administration couldn’t comment further because of the threat of litigation. Gupta had already filed two suits, charging the university with “discrimination and retaliation.” Clearly the administration was displeased with the aggressive tone of the student paper, viewing it as disloyal to the institution. Meanwhile, The East Texan was broadening its coverage to include more off-campus news. In ‘September the paper ran a consumer report on auto repairs in Commerce garages. The article received considerable criticism from the garages involved, including two large auto dealerships. President McDowell announced the changes in publications control shortly thereafter, and the students feel that the auto-repair article was “the final blow.” Goddard said, “The East Texan stepped on too many toes . . . . The administration has decided to bring future editors under tighter control.” When the change did come, student opinion was split. Those who had been critical of the paper’s policies and deemphasis of campus organization news were also those who dominate student government. Under the UPC, this group could have major influence over the paper. McDowell said, “Many students have complained that The’East Texan does not represent them. They need more stories on the activities going on on campus.” It would appear, therefore, that administration has come down squarely on the side of thOse who wanted more coverage of collegiate activities and less attention to controversy and off-campus news. Dean Carrier denies this, claiming that the administration “has come down in the middle . . . between the two groups.” “The administration has not entered into the question of whether the newspaper should cover off-campus news, although the editors have overlooked matters of considerable interest on the campus. The journalists view the paper as a training ground and think they should cover offcampus news, community concerns, and elections,” Carrier said. He noted that the paper gave considerable coverage to the recent presidential election “to the exclusion of homecoming activities.” He said that alumni and others have pointed out that “they can get the kind of news about elections in their local papers; but they want to get what’s going on on the campus from The . East Texan.” However, Carrier concedes that with the 18-year-old vote, it is particularly important for students to be informed and that many of them don’t read any paper other than The East Texan. Likewise he concedes that auto repairs are an important matter to students, particularly the 4,000 who commute to ETSU. All of this leads Carrier to conclude that the newspaper needs more money, more space, and more resourcesa point with which the editors would strongly agree. While the school has grown steadily, and currently has an enrollment of almost 10,000, the paper has not really grown in 16 years. Indeed, with advertising increasing to as much as 65 percent of the space in an issue, the news hole has been shrinking. Carrier said the changes in the governance of ‘ publications are not set in con H. Ross McLerran crete. The editors fear, however, that there will be a steady erosion of editorial independence and the newspaper will become a bulletin-board publication, avoiding any controversy, Danny Goddard and his fellow editors believe that important issues are at stake. . They were encouraged by the fact that ETSU regent Houston Harte of HarteHanks newspapers questioned President McDowell about the changes at the last regents’ meeting. The editors hope the regents will reconsider the whole matter. However, even before the next regents’ meeting, the UPC is planning to name the new editors for the next semester. Important issues are at stake. The East Texan is losing a significant measure of independence to a combination of the ETSU administration and student government. It would be easy to label it a power grab by the administration, but it is less dramatic than that, even if no less significant. It is rather an erosion of the paper’s independence, and the student editors are right to fight it. Of course, this battle has been fought successfully on other Texas campuses, but there was an important difference in these previous resistances: they had broad support from the student body. Essentially, The East Texan editors are fighting alone. This freedom-of-the-press saga may tell us more about the student body’ than it does the administration. If the issues of the Sixties have come late to ETSU, they will have a hard time surviving a campus mood more reminiscent of the Fifties. November 26, 1976 11