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The Southwestern Policy

General Statement

SWOSU recognizes the inherent value of a student newspaper in serving the university community and providing opportunities for laboratory experience for students interested in journalism, mass communications, creative writing, and other forms of expression. A student newspaper is a useful teaching device when integrated into the curriculum. An extracurricular student newspaper benefits the university through the development of students who can think perceptively and critically. A publication that serves as a forum for debate and discussion facilitates an atmosphere of intellectual freedom and enhances the university community. A newspaper benefits the university by disseminating significant information to the university community.

The University supports the student newspaper by providing revenue and donating such items as office space, equipment, supplies, and services from budget planning to duplication and printing. Therefore, SWOSU, as the publisher, establishes this policy to clarify the role of the student newspaper, the standards to be used in its evaluation, and the limits on external control of its operation.

Students are protected in the exercise of freedom of expression by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, as well as Oklahoma law. Accordingly, university officials are responsible for ensuring freedom of expression for all students.

An official, university-sponsored newspaper of a regional university should include a forum for student expression as a voice in the free and open discussion of issues. The newspaper should provide an opportunity for students to inquire, question, and exchange ideas. Content should reflect all areas of student interest, including topics about which there may be dissent or controversy. The final decision of whether the material is to be published will be left to the student editor or student editorial staff. At the same time, the editorial freedom of the student editor entails corollary responsibilities to be governed by the canons or responsible journalism.

Prior Restraint

No student publication, whether non-university-sponsored or official, will be reviewed by university administrators prior to publication with intent to censure from distribution. The university assumes no liability for the content of any student publication, and urges all student journalists to recognize that with editorial control comes responsibility, including the responsibility to follow professional journalism standards.

Prohibited Material

  1. Students cannot publish or distribute material that is "obscene as to community standards."
  2. Students cannot publish or distribute libelous material. Under the "fair comment rule," a student is free to express an opinion on a matter of public interest.
  3. Students cannot publish or distribute material that will cause "a material and substantial disruption of school activities." "School activity" means educational activity sponsored by the university.

Role of Publication Advisor

Those who advise university student media have an obligation to demonstrate, by their example and teaching, the highest ethical and professional standards possible to those whom they advise. It shall be the responsibility of the "The Southwestern" adviser to screen and recommend a suitable candidate to the Southwestern Oklahoma State University President for the position of editor.

The adviser serves as:

  1. a professional journalist, who has the skills and education requisite to teach all aspects of that particular medium;
  2. a professional educator, who shall explain and demonstrate, commend and critique, and urge students to understand their role and responsibility as journalists learning and applying their craft; and
  3. a professional manager, who can provide sound fiscal and technological guidance to the staff in running business and production operations.

The adviser's personal code includes:

  1. a dedication to the goal for media to be accurate, fair, factual, unbiased, and honest;
  2. a deep conviction that the adviser's role, by law, is to guide and advise, but not to censor or prohibit;
  3. an unyielding commitment to defend and uphold the student's Constitutional rights under the First Amendment to a full and vigorous freedom of expression without fear or prior restraint;
  4. a determination to uphold the truth in dealing with students, colleagues, administrators, suppliers, and the public;
  5. a commitment to encourage in staff members the goal to be as professional as possible through accurate reporting, thorough coverage, editorial opinion labeled as such a based upon verified fact and a recognition of the public's right to know the truth; and
  6. an open door for consultation and advice.