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"That's very clear. There have been 35 years of court decisions from around the nation establishing college press freedom," says SPLC director Mark Goodman. "What the courts have said in essence is that the school has no obligation to create the student newspaper in the first place. But once it's done so, it can't attempt to control the publication based on its content.
"It's contrary to the values of American democracy and the principles of free inquiry on a college campus," Goodman adds. "If I were a college administrator in this situation, I would be extremely embarrassed to take the position that 'we have the right to dictate the content of a college newspaper.' That's not the way the press works in this country, for good reason."
Still, Crow forwarded the news of Fulton's complaint to Gonzalez on October 8, adding, "You told me there would be limits here on this stuff."
Gonzalez responded: "I will go straight to the Media Board and speak with them on content."
Crow fired back: "Tell them our funding will be suspended asap if not corrected."
But Gonzalez had reservations, telling Crow in a subsequent message, "I will argue long and hard this is the last thing we want. A complete seperation [sic] will only make things worse by a huge proportion. Please believe me, a seperation [sic] of this type over this type of issue will harm the institution in an immense manner."
"They broke the deal . . ." Crow responded. He was referring to the State Press' new ad policy, implemented just last semester, to allow adult entertainment ads on its pages. The student ad board, according to Gonzalez, assured the administration that it would be "vigilant in judging the decency of the ads in the paper," although the board was under no obligation to the administration. Nor does the ad policy, according to Gilger, cross over into the editorial content of the paper. Therefore, Gilger says, "there was no 'deal.'"
Gonzalez was apparently so troubled by Crow's directive that he passed it on to colleague Sally Ramage, saying in an e-mail, "Take a look at this. I am surprised. What do you think?"
Ramage responded: "First reaction is that it seems to have been somewhat a loyalty test."
Head games or not, Eickmeyer says Gonzalez followed through with Crow's orders, telling Eickmeyer in their October 14 meeting that "Crow is not afraid of fear. He's not afraid to kick the State Press off campus."
At one point, Eickmeyer says Gonzalez asked him "if we'd learned anything from this experience."
"I told him, 'I've learned that you guys aren't happy about this cover,'" Eickmeyer says he flippantly replied.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Eickmeyer says Gonzalez warned him that, "The next time I have to come down here, we won't be discussing content. We'll be discussing an exit strategy."
Gonzalez confirmed Eickmeyer's version of the meeting by reporting back to Crow in an October 14 e-mail:
"I have said to them, that if I have to return and have another similar conversation with them, that the next conversation will be on how to stop ASU support and transition the newspaper into a completely self-supporting independent student newspaper," Gonzalez wrote. "In essence, I have clearly placed them on 'notice,' that one more occurrence will result in immediate severance of ASU support.
"After the discussion," Gonzalez concluded, "they understand the intense relationship and dependency they have with the university."
Crow replied: "Seems like the right tone."
Crow responded to New Times' interview request regarding the State Press and Ira Fulton's complaint with the following e-mail message:
"I have no issue with the State Press other than they don't have an editorial policy that is aligned with their advertising policy. All we asked them is to develop through their board a policy to which we can refer those that are concerned," Crow wrote.
"As to your other issue [Fulton's complaint], I answer all requests for why we do X or Y that come into my office regardless of source. All. No group or person has a special status when it comes to sharing their concerns or our responding to them."
Fulton refused a request for an interview, through Image Quest Public Relations, a firm that represents Fulton Homes.
Crow addressed the matter of the magazine cover in an October 16 letter to Fulton written on ASU letterhead, a copy of which was obtained through a public records request.
"Going forward," Crow told Fulton, "you can be certain that the Office of Student Affairs will be monitoring the newspaper's forthcoming editorial decisions very closely and working with its management to ensure that the University's standards are clearly understood. I appreciate your direct engagement on this matter and I am hopeful that we will not have to face any further issues of a similar nature in the near future.
The relationship between the LDS Institute (formally known as the Tempe Institute for Religion, although its enrollment of 1,300 is almost exclusively students of the Mormon faith, according to the Institute) and former ASU president Lattie Coor was at times "tense," one former administrator who worked closely with both Coor and Crow recently told New Times on the condition of anonymity.