Quid Pro Crow

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

While Gneiting says he never approached Crow about the play, Ellsworth sent Crow an e-mail on October 5 complaining that Banging the Bishop "greatly demeans the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) community."

"I trust that you will be sensitive to the feelings of ASU's Latter-day Saint community and seek to preserve its dignity. I trust that you will continue to maintain a campus environment where provocative ideas can be explored with respect, and where blatant provocation is not considered a legitimate substitute for critical exploration," Ellsworth wrote. "In that light, I request that you exercise your office to censure and cancel the October 15-17 performances of Banging the Bishop. ASU should not legitimate [sic], support, or maintain any affiliation with this performance."

According to Linde, on October 6, the day after Ellsworth sent Crow his request for cancellation of the show, ASU provost Milton Glick requested an October 7 meeting with Goodall regarding the play. Linde and Goodall decided not to wait for the other shoe to drop.

Cameron Eickmeyer, editor of ASU's State Press, says he won't back down to Michael Crow.
Emily Piraino
Cameron Eickmeyer, editor of ASU's State Press, says he won't back down to Michael Crow.
Ira Fulton
Ira Fulton

"We felt that we should be proactive," Linde says. "I remember it was a hectic day. The performance studies faculty met to make the decision to postpone the show."

After Goodall weighed in, and made the same recommendation, Linde pulled the plug.

"I didn't want Bud having to go in and defend the school's actions at that meeting," Linde says. "So we decided to postpone it. I'm hopeful that we'll do [the show]. I made the decision with that hope."

Goodall tells New Times that the administration made no recommendation to him regarding the staging of the show during the October 7 meeting, and took full responsibility for postponing the production.

But according to the minutes of an open meeting among the school's grad students, along with Linde and Goodall, on October 13, the decision-making process wasn't so cut and dried.

Goodall and the students discussed the "many complaints to the president, but Crow has never spoken to [Goodall] directly," the minutes say.

Other students expressed certainty that the school's academic freedom was being violated. And Goodall later told the students, according to the minutes, that, "Whether the Mormons prompted Crow is unclear."

Playwright Dusty Goltz must re-submit Banging the Bishop for approval in December to be included on the spring performance calendar, but Bud Goodall says that's just a technicality. "The show's going on," Goodall says, probably sometime in April.

"The Hugh Downs School is never going to get in the way of freedom of expression," he adds. "It's our hope that we can get the Mormon faculty members who complained about the show to come to the table before we stage it. But if they don't, that won't stop us."

The State Press is moving along as assuredly, as well.

As of press time, a meeting between director of student media Kristin Gilger, interim director of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Steve Doig, Juan Gonzalez and Michael Crow was scheduled for November 17. In preparing for the meeting, Gilger told New Times she hoped to educate the current administration on the role of an independent student press on campus.

"I think we want to have positive communication with the administration. I think it's important for them to understand what we're doing and how we're doing it," Gilger says. "But I also want to make it clear to President Crow that this is not the administration's paper. It's not my paper. It's the students' newspaper."

In the meantime, Doig and Gilger say that it's time for the State Press to move under the umbrella of the school of journalism. A proposed reorganization has already been submitted to the administration, but a decision has not been reached. (Such a move might not be the best thing, however, considering the school of journalism's recent difficulty in securing its own accreditation.)

But to avoid any future interference from the administration regarding content, Gilger admits that the only way to assure such independence is a complete separation, which would move the newspaper off campus, without any university support. (Which seems to be exactly what Michael Crow wants.)

According to the Student Press Law Center, there aren't more than a dozen such college newspapers around the country.

"It would be tough financially," Gilger says. "But I think we could make it work. Only about 10 percent of our budget is being provided for by the university."

Regardless of the final outcome, the threat of a so-called "exit strategy" has done little to shake the confidence of the State Press and its editor, Cameron Eickmeyer.

Eickmeyer says that Juan Gonzalez never demanded an apology from the editorial board, but that if Gonzalez had, Eickmeyer would have refused.

Still, Eickmeyer says he felt it appropriate to explain the newspaper's thinking in putting the "Sensual Steel" story together, and in an October 18 letter to Gonzalez, signed by the State Press editorial board, Eickmeyer wrote:

"As we stated in our conference, we stand by our decision and our right as an independent newspaper to make such a decision." After providing a "delineation" of the editorial board's reasoning in publishing the cover photo for the October 7 issue of the magazine, Eickmeyer concluded, "We must again stress that choosing our editorial content is our right and our responsibility. We feel we have been extremely responsible in our decision-making, and can promise you the same responsibility in the future."

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