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Preview: Take Back The Recorder

Take Back The Recorder

The student newspaper belongs to the STUDENTS! It should not be a vehicle for misogyny, racism, homophobia, and hatred -- but that is what it has become. STOP -- and start a journalistic endeavor worthy of CCSU. Take Back The Recorder.

Updated: 2014-10-04T20:29:22.413-07:00


So what counts as "news"?


In response to the last post, someone gives a thoughtful response and sort-of apology to Kari. Kudos -- it certainly matters to get serious responses. Of course, one has to wonder why the newspaper doesn't issue serious responses -- instead, someone who fears she may get in trouble posts on this blog and the devil's advocate. Where are the serious responses in the newspaper?

Which leads to another question: in the response to the Censorship? post, the author makes the comment that the newspaper is supposed to be about news. No doubt! So where does an "op/ed" about rape being a way for ugly women to get laid or to pass time in prison fit into this mission of the newspaper? Where does a comic strip about peeing on a 14-year-old Latina fit under the rubric of "news"? I'd like to believe that those on the paper are learning, but it isn't abundantly clear at this point that learning has occurred. Instead, it seems that the paper is mocking students and trying to sweep this latest fiasco under the rug. Fortunately, many are not letting that happen -- and it is newsworthy to report on it. In fact, it may go a long way to do some real investigative journalism into racism, sexism, and homophobia on campus.

Which leads to an idea: rather than asking all of these people to come to the Recorder and write stories, why don't Recorder staff writers take the initiative and go get the stories that affect and interest their peers? After all, I know I wouldn't want to be in the same room alone with Mark Rowan, given that he's shown nothing but disdain for women, people of color, and queer folks. Rather than insisting that the disgruntled people come and write for the Recorder (and when they do, they get edited out for writing "opinion" rather than news...), how about the staff writers going to get the stories? As it stands now, the "newspaper" is really little more than Rowan & Co. opinion. Just because you call it a newspaper doesn't mean it really is one....

But to the one who wrote in to the blog -- thanks. I do appreciate your sincerity and agree that you should be disappointed that the story was edited down. That shows a sense of responsibility often unseen in the newspaper. If only others on the staff were equally interested in creating a real newspaper.



So I guess only Rowan-approved writers can write about the cartoon fiasco in The Recorder? In this week's issue, a staff writer penned a decent article about continued fallout, although she clearly sides with the Pres, who of course supports First Amendment rights to the exclusion of all other rights. (Curious....) But Kari Sledzik's intelligent article on Jena 6, while published, has been cleansed of any connection between racism in Jena, LA and racism at CCSU. (You can find the original article and the excised content at the devil's advocate.) One might argue that Rowan & co. were doing their jobs as editors ... but it appears that the "editors" really didn't want to connect the dots and are ashamed and embarrassed to admit that what they published is not much better than hanging a noose in a tree. Racism is racism, crimes are crimes, and the right to free press is not a free pass to print any ol' thing. With rights come responsibilities, yet no one wants to hold people responsible for their actions.

Of course, real journalists are not afraid to ask the question, Is Jena America? Good for Kari, who at least tried to make the connections. Too bad her efforts were censored, and in her own newspaper.

From the mouths of REAL journalists


Mad ups to Stan Simpson, Bob Englehart, Timothy Chambers, and Bessy Reyna for their speaking out in the Courant -- now that's some free speech I can get behind because it 1) pushes us to think (no one is afraid of controversy, after all); 2) speaks truths without intimidating and harassing entire groups of people, thereby protecting the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the First; and 3) encourages real free speech, not Rowan-exclusive speech masquerading as free speech.

And Englehart is a cartoonist -- perhaps the one with the dog in this particular fight -- and he's speaking truth to power about publishing, controversy, and responsibility. If only I were a journalism major at CCSU...well...I still aspire to work with the likes of such conscientious and thoughtful people with whom I may not agree but with whom I can enjoy an intelligent discussion about rights -- and what is the right thing to do.

Right(s) on!!

Sick and tired ... of being sick and tired


Is anyone else out there as frustrated and disgusted with President Miller's constant defense of Mark Rowan's rights? At every turn, he's talking about the First Amendment. That's great -- we need to talk about First Amendment. But he's spouting off about rights -- what about responsibilities that accompany those rights? And what about my Fourteenth Amendment rights?? Where are those when he's talking about constitutional protections?

I don't have his latest missive to the entire CCSU community but when I do, I'll post it -- in it, he asks us to look to the positives, everything CCSU has done right. Is he trying to convince us that the constant hostile workplace climate at Central is old news like Rowan & co.? Methinks he's not paying attention for a reason. Like naming names, this "focus on the positive, ignore the negative" is a diversionary tactic. Keep the pressure on! This is OUR campus -- WE have rights, too!!

Putting that censorship out there


Kudos for whoever started the blog of stories rejected by the CCSU quote/unquote editors, Rowan & Co. It is sheer genius to put it out there -- after all, Rowan himself put it out there that students could publish in their newspaper (file that under "D" for "duh" because it is the STUDENT newspaper). Turns out, however, that he doesn't want students to write about the latest Rowan-sponsored fiasco.

And when Stan "I live for the First Amendment" Simpson at the Courant gives you a First-Amendment Smackdown, you know you are in a heap o' trouble. Kudos to Stan -- he's joined the legions of folks embarrassed by the Recorder and even suggests, albeit in a veiled way, that there may be something to be done about this gross overstepping of boundaries.

And really, who is going to hire these folks associated with the Recorder once they're out of school? First, CCSU seems a joke. The Recorder has made it so becuase CCSU is only in the news when Rowan et al make it so. Second, if you really want a career in journalism, The Recorder isn't helping you -- in fact, many would argue that it is alienating you. Who in their right journalistic mind would hire you if this is the kind of publicity you attract? Some at The Recorder surely want more than a good "nana-boo-boo" at the Establishment that can't touch 'em. Right?? We'll see.... Maybe some will wise up and vote Rowan out of office before he can do more damage to their future careers.

Or perhaps those who have been denied the right to publish in their own student newspaper will take it to the Media Board and demand to know why this Board is holding over $150,000 of student money for the newspaper but not letting students who paid those fees access the platform of free speech that is valued over all other rights. (If the current line-up is correct, there are open student spots on that board....) And a gander at the Media Board Constitution can only embolden the cause. Of course, if you cannot access controversial articles anymore, it may be because some on the Media Board have deemed them too controversial. (just scroll down to that about some Toyota Prius ad...clearly the most offensive that the paper has to offer!) And you might want to know why the latest minutes of Media Board meetings is in July 2007. Have they not met since then? And if not, where are the minutes of these meetings?

Old news??


According to the folks at the devil's advocate, Rowan and Co. have decided that their cartoon episode is "old news." A student who wrote an article about the Jena 6 -- linking it to racism at CCSU -- has been rejected, denied the right to publish in her own student newspaper. Turns out, the "editors" are invoking their responsibilities as "editors" -- but only when it suits 'em.

For real -- say it along with me -- CENSORSHIP. Here's where the real censorship is. Turns out we can use both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to our favor!

Oh, and John Petroski's letter to the editor makes me laugh out loud. The boy who penned "Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It" wants you to know that he knows what equality's all about. Now that's thoughtful. Clearly he's learned a thing or two and wants to share it with all of us.

We have to demand our fees be returned. And we have to keep the pressure going.

Making headway


This just out from Carl Lovitt -- It is a step in the right direction, and one to be applauded. But let's not lose sight of the fact that the institution HAS fallen short and immediate remedies are needed. The Fourteenth Amendment is still in the Constitution, at least as of this posting.Still, kudos for stepping into the right direction. Finally -- something beyond protecting Rowan and Co., as if theirs are the only rights to be protected.Dear Colleagues,Beyond the outrage occasioned by the Recorder’s publication of the offensive cartoon, I share with many others a deep concern about the implication that CCSU is not sensitive to racial diversity and respectful of difference and that it does not provide a safe environment for those who work and study here. These are serious allegations. Our mission statement explicitly states that “We foster a welcoming environment in which all members of our diverse community receive encouragement, feel safe, and acquire self-confidence.” If our institution has fallen short of meeting this essential responsibility to our community, then I believe it is our collective responsibility to take decisive steps to improve our environment.Much has been made of the steps that our laws and Constitution prevent us from taking in response to the present situation, but there are clearly actions available that will allow us to make headway in becoming a more welcoming and supportive environment. I'd like to take a moment to outline some of the academic initiatives that I propose we pursue to this end.As so much of the conflict at CCSU in the past year has centered on the student newspaper, an important first step will be to implement the recommendation from the Task Force on Journalistic Integrity to develop a proposal for a journalism major. Offering a journalism major will not only ensure the availability of more knowledgable and responsible journalists to staff our student newspaper but also lead to improvements in the quality of the Recorder's journalism. To that end, Dean Susan Pease has invited Dr. Susanne Shaw, Executive Director of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which is the premier accrediting body for journalism programs, to visit the CCSU campus in March, to which she has tentatively agreed; she has also indicated that she will invite the former Dean of the Indiana University School of Journalism to accompany her. We look forward to supporting our faculty's efforts to develop a journalism proposal in the coming months, which we can review with our distinguished campus visitors in the spring.I have also been especially sensitive over the past week to suggestions from several members of our community that we must do more to educate our students about the value of cultural sensitivity and respect for difference. Suggestions have included requiring all students to complete a course on diversity and introducing a diversity "module" in first-year experience courses. These suggestions are certainly worth considering, and there may be other viable curricular and pedagogical options that have not yet been proposed. Given our institution's mission, such academic initiatives should certainly be part of the solution. To this end, I propose to appoint an ad hoc committee of diverse faculty members, students, and alumni to develop recommendations for proposed curricular, co-curricular, and pedagogical initiatives to improve our students' sensitivity to diversity and respect for difference. I will consult with the University Senate and the AAUP concerning the committee's membership and charge, and I propose that the committee's recommendations be forwarded to the Curriculum Committee for review and action.Finally, I would like to build on Jane Fried's recent assertion about the importance of experiential learning by suggesting that a proven approach to increasing our students' cultural sensitivity is [...]

Naming names?


Seems that some on campus want to call out the haters -- who really makes CCSU such a bad place? Good question.


Naming names assumes that there will be no retribution. In this climate, there are no assurances that if we name names, there will be no retribution -- a bad grade, hostility in the classroom, further tension. I'm here to say that this climate is not the place to do so -- I know I wouldn't name any names because I'm sure I'll get in trouble. I only have to pick up the newspaper to find a list of names. I only have to walk down certain hallways to find names. I only have to see whose trying so hard to protect free speech that they put me on the spot to name names -- which, ironically, keeps me quiet.

Furthermore -- this is a diversionary tactic. Keep the pressure on the real issues -- fees, equal protection, rights as students to learn in a climate free of hostility. Expose me to controversy. Calling for me to be kidnapped and peed on is not controversy -- it is intimidation and hostility. It is a hostile climate here.

Why is it...


the only people crying "free speech" are the ones who have it? Everyone concerned with "free speech" is looking to protect his own speech without recognizing that by exercising some forms of speech, he is infringing upon the rights of others. We don't have access to the same platforms -- basic understandings of the history and culture of this country would tell you that. After all, the same Constitution that guarantees free speech also wrote women out of it in 1868 (although it was never intended that "we the people" were female) and actually defined slaves as 3/5 of a person. The 3/5 clause was written out with the Fourteenth Amendment; women were written into citizenship with the 19th amendment in 1920.

Your right to free speech should not curtail mine.

But then again, the issues may be bigger than free speech. Don't let people send up the free speech smoke screen and convince you that you don't have the right to hostile-free workplace and learning environment and that you must be subject to student fees to pay for your own humiliation and intimidation. Concede the free speech right to print whatever crap they want in the newspaper; demand responsibility for that action! We all have rights at stake here. They want First Amendment? Respond with Fourteenth Amendment. We all have rights.

Response to the Legal Department


The folks at CCSU legal are working hard to protect First Amendment rights -- and it can certainly be debated as to whether or not this speech is "obscene" -- after all, urinating on someone without consent (and 14 does not reach the age of consent) is illegal; might that constitute obscene speech?

But that notwithstanding -- legal folks can, will, and SHOULD wrangle this one out, perhaps in court if someone wanted to take up the pursuit -- the focus needn't be there. Let 'em spew whatever speech they want. The real issues -- and the ones legal folks can't get around are these:

1) STUDENT FEES have been used to demean, harass, and intimidate. For other news outlets, one has to subscribe. Are students able to choose whether or not to subscribe to this newspaper? Nope. No choice. First, there is no alternative -- read the report Ms. Magnan offers up -- CCSU has no intention of allowing an alternative newspaper. It is The Recorder or bust. So what is the alternative? Refuse to pay fees. Demand your fees be returned to you for this semester. This is classic taxation without representation. There are no alternatives here, so it is impossible to turn away to an alternative. I didn't pay my hard - earned money just to be told that I have to suck it up and deal with it. I've been unduly taxed, forced to pay for the humiliation of myself and others. No way. Money back!!

2) A HOSTILE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT is in place here. Is the educational environment a workplace environment for students? Perhaps -- check the law. And if it is, or if it is unclear, pursue it in a court of law. Faculty, staff, and students all have been harassed, intimidated, and threatened -- satirizing rape and the kidnapping and degradation of a Latina are only two examples. This is classic definition of a hostile workplace environment.

so fine that it is free speech -- free speech isn't when it limits the speech of others, and students don't have access to the current newspaper or an alternative. Moreover, who feels comfortable speaking back in this environment? Well, these are the legal questions we need to be asking of ourselves, student government, the administration, the Board of Trustees, the Attorney General, the Victim's Advocate, and the Governor. Laws may well be broken here, and it may have nothing at all to do with the First Amendment. After all, last I checked, the Fourteenth Amendment still mattered, too.

From the Legal Department...


As Chair of the Task Force on Journalistic Integrity, I have spent a great deal of time working on issues related to The Recorder. Although I do not now speak for the Task Force, as its Chair, I would like to remind everyone that the Task Force spent several months last semester carefully considering what action the University could take in response to an offensive article published in The Recorder last February. Since The Recorder’s publication of more offensive material last Wednesday, I know there has been a great deal of discussion both on and off campus about what the University can and should do in response. Last spring, the Task Force concluded that since we are a public university the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects most student speech in The Recorder from interference by the University. The United States Supreme Court has found that universities may not proscribe student speech even if it is gravely offensive to large numbers of people. I invite you to look at the Task Force’s Final Report and also at a memorandum prepared by the Task Force’s subcommittee on the First Amendment which spells out much of the law on the protections afforded by the First Amendment to college newspapers, including an explanation of the very limited categories of unprotected speech – defamation, obscenity and fighting words, sometimes referred to as hate speech. These documents may be found at the following links:
As you can see from the Final Report, the Task Force made a series of recommendations that were accepted by President Miller at the beginning of August:
As the president noted in his email last Friday, during the month of August he met with the vice presidents and is in the process of implementing many of the recommendations.

Carolyn A. Magnan, Esq.
Counsel to the President

Beyond First Amendment Rights


Ok, so Rowan and Co. had the right to publish the cartoon. Indefensibly poor taste? Yes. Within his legal right? Yes. Now, does the right to free speech mean the platform to it? Debatable. Can he continue to operate from this platform? Remains to be seen, but only the students can oust him. So first things first: demand that the rules for electing the editor are transparent. If your funds pay for this paper, demand a voice in choosing the editor.

Speaking of funds: here's the question that goes far beyond the right to publish/free speech. Can a university, such as the state-operated and funded CCSU, force you to pay student fees to fund a paper that harasses, demeans, and threatens you? Are you not being forced to pay for your own harassment? Does that not contribute to a hostile workplace environment? Isn't a learning environment also a workplace? If we move the issue away from free speech (and this may or may not be hate speech and/or pornography, given that it went after a protected group and encouraged a criminal act of sexual assault), the real issue is about the money.

The protest


Anyone and everyone -- please feel free to post about the protest here.

Some great student statements -- right on! And to those who called out President Miller for walking away when students were talking -- good for you. Shame, shame, shame -- it isn't something to be proud of, people.

So please post commentary in the comment section and I'll upload them as I get them.

And let me know your next steps -- The Time Is Now!

From the Chancellor's Office


This was posted on NBC 30 this afternoon, after the protest:

Office of the Chancellor

September 17, 2007

To the CSUS Community:
The Connecticut State University System Board of Trustees and the CSUS Chancellor are appalled by the stunning lack of sensitivity and awareness displayed by Mark Rowan, editor of the Central Connecticut State University student newspaper, and apparently by others on the newspaper’s editorial staff.
We share the understandable outrage expressed by students, faculty and staff at Central, but recognize that the First Amendment to this nation’s Constitution provides broad protections for free speech. It also limits the remedies available to a University seeking to reintroduce repulsive and renegade publications to the concepts of mutual respect and good judgment.
We concur with Central President Jack Miller’s plan to act promptly on the recommendations of the University’s Task Force on Journalistic Integrity and support students who are rightfully insisting on responsible journalism from their student newspaper. This is not what one should expect from a student newspaper - editorial content, opinion articles and cartoons that cross the line of human decency.
It is shameful that the insensitive and hurtful actions of a mere handful of students can misrepresent the character of an entire University community. It is astonishing that the editors seemingly refuse to absorb that simply because something can be printed does not mean that it should be printed. It is incomprehensible that such offensive material would be knowingly included in the student newspaper and imposed on the CCSU community, regardless of whether or not the writer is a University student.
Actions of this type are abhorrent, and there must be a way to reach students so that they fully comprehend that such behavior is entirely inappropriate and not in their own best interest if they are to become constructive contributors to society. We reiterate our commitment to the importance of personal ethics, personal conduct and personal responsibility, and strongly encourage the University and its students to pursue every avenue to reassert those fundamental guiding principles.

Lawrence D. McHugh David G. Carter, Sr.
Chairman, Board of Trustees Chancellor
Connecticut State University System Connecticut State University System

Here's a question: what about the charges of HOSTILE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT?

NOON today!!





Be there, be loud, demand that students be allowed to take back the recorder!!

Tomorrow -- PROTEST!


Remember -- tomorrow is the protest -- NOON outside of Davidson.

Bring signs, noisemakers, energy, petitions (has anyone started an online petition?? if so, lemme know), and voices.

If you see Professor Mendez-Mendez, please reach out. Shake his hand, thank him for his work -- he's taking this one to the legal channels and needs your support. Likewise, any of the students, staff, and faculty who have been leading the good fight, getting the message out there, show love.

Some love for TBTR--thanks!


Here from Rachel's Tavern - I applaud what you're doing, so please keep up the pressure.

If I may add a few thoughts as you work with the administration:

1. Please don't let them make this a "cultural" or "latino" issue. ANYONE against sexism, racism, and violence should be offended by a "funny" comic about sexist racist sexual violence and abduction published in a public paper. If the author had inserted any other ethnic group, or if no ethnicity had been asserted, or even if it had been a boy in the closet, it would be a horrible, poor-taste comic. That the author and editor chose a double minority and a minor only makes it worse.

2. Do investigate the legality of public funds used for hate speech (against women, ethnic groups, etc), as this is probably the best and quickest way to shut them down. In my college, at least, the club and organization funding wasn't fully passed out until October by student government. You may have a similar window of opportunity.

Rachel's Tavern is RIGHT ON TARGET here!! This is something that affects ALL of us.

And yeah, this is a club after all -- could a white supremacist group on campus advertise with photos of a lynching? Could a frat advertise a party with photos of a gang rape? Those kinds of speech aren't free -- NEITHER is a cartoon that promotes illegal acts (see below).

Thanks for the love -- right back at ya!

Ideas for the protest


Last year, students demanded a return of student fees -- after all, student $$ pays for the student paper. If the paper is going to run these things, do students have to continue to support it? Is there no restitution if the student paper is part of the problem? Perhaps we should demand our student fees back -- if President Miller is going to withhold advertising dollars from the paper (see his statement), can we not withhold our dollars?

Good question


adam692 queries in the latest post if the cartoon "Polydongs" rises (or sinks?) to the level of pornography. Good question. I don't specialize in the law but I do have to wonder ... urinating on someone is sexual assault in the state of CT. (Remember the case of the UConn boys who ejaculated on a female student? That case changed the law -- and it includes urination as part of sexual assault.) There are also laws against sex with a minor -- statutory rape. And child pornography is CERTAINLY against the law, even if adult porn isn't. Furthermore, publishing this in a free student newspaper, distributed to people -- INCLUDING MINORS who attend CCSU (some of our first-year students are under the age of 18) -- is illegal. And it uses state funds and equipment to perpetuate said crimes.

All the more that CCSU is a hostile workplace environment -- Mendez-Mendez is right, as were the women who fought back against the rape "satire."

I hope the university's counsel is paying attention...they may be in for a much bigger lawsuit than anticipated.

Additional shout outs


Major shout-outs to Yessica Amparo and Kayla Rivera -- two students who had the serious and righteous nerve to speak out about this cartoon bullsh. They took it to the Courant, and to the mat -- mad props.

Mark Rowan won't resign -- so announced in various news fora. But I am not so sure it is up to him alone. Whaddaya think? The call has to come from students. This is your money paying for this drivel, you know.

The Devil's Advocate!!


Check out the PSA -- they're on board with The Time Is Now -- I support them and hope you will, too.

the devil's advocate sent me the info about the local WIN contact (see below -- groups in the mix about what's going down at CCSU) -- here's the email for contact:

Shout out!! Let's definitely support them.

Speaking of shout outs: Naa Sackey is the bomb!! She's a genuine leader on campus and a leader in the African Student Union. Her commentary in the Courant is tight (as always).

Cover your eyes, kiddies


Just realized that some faculty members -- including Robert Wolff (history) -- are antsy that students have been copied on emails about The Recorder. Should "they" hear what "we" think???

Professor Mendez-Mendez reiterated that he intended students to have full access to the conversation. And this is part of speech -- FREE speech.

Gotta wonder why some would be so anxious about students hearing faculty disgust and outrage? After all, faculty and students work together in the same hostile environment.



Students are holding a demonstration on Monday at NOON outside of Davidson. Stand with your peers -- their pain is our pain, their suffering, ours. And we have to stand together, in solidarity.

The silence is deafening


Although Miller issued his statement (see below), where are other administrators? Who should also be out in front of this issue:

Vivian Martin, associate professor, English -- advisor to The Recorder
Sue Sweeney, Student Affairs and Leadership Development -- she holds the pursestrings to all clubs on campus, including The Recorder
Margaret Toston, VP of Student Affairs

Why are they letting a student take the fall for this entire debacle? Granted, they can't censor what he publishes before the fact, but surely they can advise him, teach him, and guide him after. And they can stand with him -- his shame is their shame.

Government officials off campus should also be looking into this situation -- did CCSU students use money illegally? That wouldn't fall under first amendment can't use free speech to break the law.

CCSU, back in the news




New York Times

Hartford Courant -- although this one is even better. Several STUDENTS (those people Rowan insists haven't complained about the cartoon and his editorial "leadership") are featured in this story, targeting not only Rowan but also Miller and the administration. Right on!!

I'll put up blog stories as they come in too because all of the major bloggers have the story as well.