Quid Pro Crow

ASU's president puts the squeeze on freedom of speech to please his biggest donor

• And just days before Fulton griped about the State Press, a play by a Hugh Downs School of Communication graduate student, critical of the Mormon faith, was indefinitely postponed after Mormon faculty and church members, as well as students, took their complaints all the way to the administration.

At the same time, Crow's policies have ASU faculty and students campuswide fearful that the former Columbia University vice provost is willing to sacrifice artistic integrity and First Amendment rights in order to create an attractive, controlled environment to bring in even more wealthy, powerful donors and their research dollars.

ASU grad student Kelly McDonald made her concerns, specifically about the postponed play Banging the Bishop, public at an October 13 open meeting with fellow grad students: "We do live in a culture of fear here, this university censors the arts," she said, according to the meeting's minutes.

ASU President Michael Crow
courtesy of ASU
ASU President Michael Crow
Banging the Bishop playwright Dusty Goltz is a former member of the Mormon church.
Emily Piraino
Banging the Bishop playwright Dusty Goltz is a former member of the Mormon church.

As New Times reported in July, the ASU Art Museum censored its own exhibition, "Democracy in America," by cutting anti-George W. Bush art from the show ("Heil to the Chief," July 1, and "Bush League," August 19), only after Crow got wind of the liberal bent and demanded the curatorial process include his input, so that the Commission on Presidential Debates wouldn't pull the October 13 event because of a perceived partisan art exhibition.

Later that month, bulldozers razed four fraternity houses on campus, forcing one of those fraternities to move into a new alcohol-free dormitory as part of Crow's plan to corral all of ASU's frats into more controlled living situations ("Greek Weak," September 23).

And in September, despite legal threats by the American Civil Liberties Union, Crow's administration enforced a ban on all signs and decorations in dorm-room windows ("Forty Whacks," Rick Barrs, October 7), threatening students with expulsion for even hanging Bush or John Kerry campaign signs as the presidential debate made its way to Tempe in early October. (After the debate had come and gone, the administration finally gave in and allowed students to hang American flags from their windows as a show of patriotism, and "positive" campaign signs only until the election was over.)

One former administrator calls Crow "a control freak." The administrator, who just recently resigned and worked closely with the ASU president for the past two years and for his predecessor, Lattie Coor, requested anonymity, because of Crow's far-reaching contacts in the Valley, where the former administrator still works.

Those very control issues may eventually morph ASU into BYU South.

"You have to understand Crow's mentality," the former administrator says. "He understands BYU can only hold so many students. So he wants them to choose ASU as their second choice. And he's got an aggressive strategy to get it done."

It's the day after the October 13 presidential debate at ASU, and the State Press newsroom is buzzing with the events of the previous night. Reporters are filing follow-up stories about the debate's impact on Tempe, student reaction to all the commotion on campus, and analyses of which man won.

But the paper's editor in chief, Cameron Eickmeyer, is brooding in his office, thinking about 10-gauge barbells and the First Amendment.

Just a half-hour earlier, Eickmeyer was in the most contentious meeting of his young career.

The meeting included: Juan Gonzalez and Sally Ramage, ASU's vice president and associate vice president for student affairs, respectively; Kristin Gilger, the director of student media and adviser to the State Press, the online ASU Web Devil and ASU's on-campus TV station SDTV; State Press Magazine editor (and former New Times intern) Megan Irwin; and Eickmeyer.

The subject matter of the meeting, initiated by Gonzalez, was the October 7 issue of the magazine.

In an interview with New Times a week after his meeting with the student editors, Gonzalez says that he personally had no problem with the content of the "Sensual Steel" story, but that the administration had "concerns" that one of the images had "crossed the line of decency."

He was speaking, of course, about the cover.

"We had received some concerns, by the community, by the faculty, and by students, about one of the graphics that was used," Gonzalez says. "I asked them to share with me what their thinking was. What was their thinking as they moved this forward in the development of the story?"

According to Eickmeyer, Gonzalez went well beyond a mere inquiry in their October 14 meeting.

On October 7, Ira Fulton called Michael Crow's office and "was rather upset with a photo of a woman's breast that appeared [on the cover of the magazine]," according to an e-mail from administrative assistant Lisa Fitzgerald to Crow. "Ira did not ask for a returned phone call," Fitzgerald continued, "but wanted you to know that he is upset with this photo and how could we allow this to appear in the paper."

The State Press is housed on campus, rent free in Matthews Center. In addition to providing electricity and janitorial services, ASU also allocates more than $153,000 annually to student media's overall budget of more than $1.5 million, which is used to operate the State Press, the Web Devil and SDTV.

However, student media has traditionally been editorially independent of the university, meaning the administration has no right to dictate the newspaper's content. The newspaper staff, including adviser Kristin Gilger, a former metro editor for the Arizona Republic, is paid with ad revenue -- not state dollars.

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