The Norman Transcript

Religion

October 11, 2006

College media advisers censure OBU

Group alleges school newspaper subject to prior review, censorship

By Brianna Bailey

Transcript Staff Writer

A national group of college journalism advisors censured Oklahoma Baptist University last week for "attempting to control the content," of the school newspaper and violating "the First Amendment rights of students on its campus," according to an official statement released by the organization.

Philip Todd, former advisor of OBU's school newspaper, The Bison, claims the university did not renew his contract in spring 2005 after he refused repeated requests by OBU President Mark Brister to review and censor the newspaper before publication.

"I was pressured by the president to commit prior review ." Todd said. "It started almost as soon as I got on campus and there's a paper trail a mile long."

College Media Advisers, a group representing advisers at colleges and universities ac across the country, issued the censure after an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Todd's removal from the school, said CMA president Lance Speere, of Southern Illinois University, Evansville. Todd provided CMA with e-mail correspondence and other documentation to support his claim of retaliation, he said.

"Our organization is saying that the atmosphere at the school is not conducive to the first amendment rights of students, which has been proven unconstitutional" Speere said. "We want to shine light on the situation."

The university was uncooperative with CMA's inquiries into the matter, and refused to discuss OBU's policies in mediation, Speere said.

"Their lawyers sent us letters threatening legal action," Speere said. "We notified the university and gave them one last chance to rectify the situation, but they never seemed interested in doing that."

CMA has censure seven school since 1998, six of those censure remain in effect. OBU is the third private, religious school to be censure by the group, according to the CMA Web site.

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