QU announces media task force

Mark Dipaola

Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Kathleen McCourt has announced the formation of a task force that will evaluate the university media policy that is currently in place.

The task force will consist of McCourt, Dean of Students Manuel Carreiro and Vice President of Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell. An e-mail that was sent to Professor Margarita Diaz and forwarded to Chronicle editor in chief Jason Braff, outlined the administration’s plan, which includes meetings with both students and faculty.

According to McCourt, the task force is currently examining the policies of other universities and media outlets in what she deemed a “fact finding” phase.

“The task force is just entering the fact-finding phase, and we’ll be looking at the structures and relationships of student newspapers at peer institutions as well as universities having strong journalism programs,” said Bushnell in a separate email. “We’ll also take a look at how commercial newspapers are structured.”

The meetings with faculty and students, McCourt said, will be conducted afterwards, most likely in February and March. The team is hoping to have a proposal ready to be submitted to President John Lahey by the end of March.

Last semester, the administration’s strict enforcement of a policy that requires student media organizations to contact John Morgan, the associate vice president for public relations, for interviews with administrators, sparked a campus outcry.

Before the semester break, the Student Government Association (SGA) passed a resolution declaring their support for campus media and the first amendment. This document was also sent to the administration, SGA President Sean Geary said.

“I feel very comfortable with being able to communicate with the administration,” Geary said. “It’s not a fight. It’s supposed to be us collaborating.”

Geary said that he is confident that students will be allowed ample opportunity to voice their opinion on the issue.

“That’s SGA’s No. 1 priority, to ensure that students are involved in anything related to student life,” he said. “I’m fully confident that the administration will involve students when necessary.”

Although associate professor of journalism Paul Janensch was initially invited to join the task force, McCourt later told him that his assistance would not be needed.

“I had mixed feelings about accepting her invitation,” Janensch said in an e-mail. “I have strong opinions about student media, but I knew I was going to have a very busy spring semester and was not sure I had the time to devote to the task force’s work. So I made an appointment to see her later in [December] to talk about it. As soon as we sat down in her office, she said she had decided to withdraw her invitation to me.”

Janensch said that in the ensuing conversation, which he described as “cordial,” McCourt told him who would be in the task force.

“I told her in a follow-up e-mail that I thought Margarita Diaz, chair of the Journalism Department and advisor to the Chronicle, and a Chronicle editor should be asked to serve on the task force. But evidently she didn’t agree.”

Janensch has more than 30 years experience in the field of journalism. He has been at Quinnipiac since 1995, and is a former advisor to the Chronicle.

“During those years, the Chronicle printed news stories and opinion pieces that were critical of university policies and practices, but neither the editors nor I ever received a complaint from the administration,” he said in the e-mail.

Janensch offered his opinion about why the administration has imposed the current media policies.

“I think the administration has become more concerned about what is published in the Chronicle because the newspaper now has an online edition, which is easily accessed by outside media, such as the New Haven Register and Connecticut television stations.”