Quid Pro Crow
During seven of the most frantic and festive days in the history of Arizona State University, a female nipple pierced with a 10-gauge barbell threw a wrench in President Michael Crow's week.
As news broke of ASU's first Nobel Prize winner in the university's 119-year history, the ASU community was reveling in another first -- hosting a presidential debate. And then, maybe even more monumental for the majority of the maroon-and-gold masses, the undefeated Sun Devils took on the nation's top-ranked college football team in the USC Trojans. And all of it happened in one glorious week in mid-October.
Meanwhile, Crow was busy putting out a fire. Or starting one, depending on your perspective.
The State Press, the on-campus, independently run student newspaper at ASU, published a story in the October 7 issue of its weekly supplement, State Press Magazine, about "extreme body modification" -- body piercing -- and how the procedure reportedly enhances some college students' sex lives. The story, headlined "Sensual Steel," featured a provocative black-and-white full-page cover photo of a curvaceous female breast pierced through the nipple.
Apparently, the magazine cover caught the eye of Ira Fulton, ASU's most generous donor. The founder of Tempe-based Fulton Homes has given $58 million to the university in the past year and a half, including a $3 million gift announced earlier this month. His first gift of $50 million in June 2003 spurred the renaming of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
The photo of a bare breast, erect nipple and all, on the cover of the student newspaper's weekly magazine, prompted Fulton to contact Crow's office directly to voice his displeasure, according to internal e-mails obtained by New Times. But rather than informing Fulton that the State Press, an ASU institution since 1890, was editorially independent of the university and that the administration had no right to dictate the paper's content, Crow reacted by ordering a subordinate to intimidate the State Press and its student editors -- threatening to sever all financial support for the newspaper, according to e-mails and State Press editor in chief Cameron Eickmeyer.
National experts who follow campus paper politics warn that yanking funding from a paper that displeases the administration would be a dangerous move, but Michael Crow is living dangerously these days.
Many members of the ASU community -- faculty and students alike -- are convinced that Crow is building his "new American university" on a foundation of academic fear.
And there's plenty of evidence.
According to more than a dozen interviews with faculty, students and university administrators, along with hundreds of pages of e-mails and correspondence New Times has obtained, Crow is compromising academic freedom and First Amendment rights in order to curry favor and entice wealthy donors into giving millions of dollars to the state's largest public university.
Whether it's keeping the Commission on Presidential Debates at bay, cowering to Fulton -- who also happens to be a George W. Bush elector in the Electoral College -- or coddling Fulton's fellow members of the Mormon church, Crow is obviously so determined to maintain such a controlled environment that he's trying to scare the campus of 55,000 into submission.
And that includes the university's free press.
After months of requesting interviews with Crow regarding a slew of issues, his communications specialist, Denise Quiroz, told New Times on November 2 that Crow's schedule would not allow an interview before press time. Crow replied to a personal letter delivered directly to his office, and an e-mail to Crow's private address, with a short response that mostly avoided the heart of the State Press controversy.
Fulton, meanwhile, declined New Times' request for an interview.
In Crow's two-plus years as ASU's president, his administration has expressed its discontent with the State Press on several occasions. But no one in the administration has come close to actually threatening to "kick the State Press off campus," as Crow did, through a subordinate.
(Even the subordinate, Juan Gonzalez, thought that was a bad idea, his e-mails reflect.)
But this latest instance of Crow's apparent disregard of First Amendment rights is no anomaly, particularly when it comes to currying favor with the group that's now emerging as Crow's most catered-to special interests -- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.
According to the faculty, students and administrative officials interviewed for this story, as well as public records New Times obtained, Crow is peddling ASU to the Mormon church and allowing a big donor like Fulton -- who's also given $50 million to Brigham Young University, becoming BYU's single biggest donor as well -- to have unbridled influence within taxpayer-funded ASU.
This semester, ASU made available to more than 70 students what's called a "Healthy Living" environment at Mariposa Hall, which requires that students who live there must first vow to neither smoke, do drugs nor drink alcohol as a condition of residency, specifically to quiet Mormon church leaders' concerns over ASU's "party" image.
In September, Crow agreed to swap state land on campus occupied by ASU's psychology department with the Mormons' privately owned LDS Institute of Religion, so that the church could build a parking lot and garage to go along with an expansion in the center of campus. Such a move would most seriously affect the department's Child Study Lab, where the lab's adjacent playground will be razed to make way for the LDS parking garage.
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.
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.
Even if the university provided 100 percent of student media's funding, according to the Arlington, Virginia-based Student Press Law Center, ASU would have no right to censor the State Press.
"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.
Coor did not return a call seeking comment.
Near the end of his 12-year tenure at ASU, according to the former administrator, Coor discussed with the Institute a move from its current location on campus at McAllister and Orange streets -- where it's been now for more than 43 years -- to one on the outer border of the university.
"The university was getting so much bigger, and Coor thought that it would be best just in terms of space if the church wasn't smack-dab in the middle of campus," the former administrator says. "The church took it as, 'Well, apparently we're not wanted here anymore.' And communication between the two parties was cut off.
"From that point on, there was no love lost between Coor and the church."
The exact opposite could be said for the current administration.
Almost from the outset of his tenure at ASU, Michael Crow has gone the extra mile -- in fact, several hundred extra miles -- to woo the LDS church, and Ira Fulton, specifically. According to a June 23, 2003, story in the Business Journal of Phoenix, Crow met with Fulton four times to secure the homebuilder's $50 million donation to the since-renamed Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
Additionally, Crow made at least one trip to meet with church leaders in Salt Lake City, according to university spokesman Virgil Renzulli. In February 2003, Crow met with Mormon church officials to discuss plans for an expansion of the on-campus LDS Institute of Religion. During that meeting, church leaders also told Crow that "the ASU image as a 'party' school discourages mainstream Mormons," according to the East Valley Tribune.
"President Crow has made it clear that ASU will support faith-based organizations on this campus," Renzulli tells New Times, arguing that Crow is not beholden only to Mormon interests. "He's met with Catholic church leaders, he's met with Hillel [ASU's Jewish student organization]."
But clearly, those meetings have not affected ASU's infrastructure or policy decisions like the relationship Crow has cultivated with the Mormon church.
There's no arguing that Crow has made ASU more LDS-friendly, allowing Fulton's influence, most predominantly, to reach far beyond the engineering school that bears his name.
There's no arguing that Crow has made ASU more LDS-friendly, allowing Fulton's influence, most predominantly, to reach far beyond the engineering school that bears his name.
First, according to one ASU employee who works closely with the administration and requested anonymity for fear of losing her job, and the former administrator who confirmed the employee's statements, it was church leaders' concerns that prompted Crow and his vice president of student affairs, Juan Gonzalez, to institute a campuswide ban on alcohol consumption in all dorms, even for the few students over the age of 21 who live on campus, making ASU essentially a "dry" campus.
Mariposa Hall, meanwhile, just this semester became the university's only "Healthy Living" dormitory -- Crow's response to his meetings with church leaders in Utah, according to the Tribune. To live at Mariposa, students must voluntarily promise, in writing, not to smoke, drink or take illegal drugs.
The Tribune also reported that Mariposa residents must promise not to engage in sexual activity. However, according to Misty Calleroz, the associate director of ASU Residential Life, that's not part of the agreement.
"We'd have no way of policing that," Calleroz says.
How many LDS students live at Mariposa is unknown, but the LDS Institute, on its Web site, www.lds.org/institutes, advertises the dorm as being "basicly [sic] like BYU standards though it is open to all denominations."
In continuing to reestablish rapport with the Institute, Crow, earlier this year, approved a land swap with the church -- allowing the Institute to acquire university property at the child psychology study lab and playground on the northern border of the Institute's property in exchange for church-owned property on Fifth Street in Tempe, according to Nancy Hoth, the director of the Child Study Lab. The City of Tempe Design Review Board approved the expansion plan in September.
The expansion would force the child psychology department to move its playground to the north side of the psychology building, and a number of child psychology offices on the south side of the building would be razed in order to make way for the Institute's four-level parking garage, Hoth says.
But in early September, psychology department officials were worried that ASU had no plans to build a new playground, which would have cost the study lab its accreditation and forced it to shut down. Only after the proposed expansion received negative press (in a September 1 story in the State Press), in the form of disgruntled university employees and concerned parents, did the administration communicate to the department that it would indeed build a new playground, Hoth says.
While D. Hyrum Wright, the director of the Tempe Institute, declined to comment, the negative press apparently has the church rethinking the expansion as well. Randy Hulbert, the director of physical facilities and real estate for the Mormon Church Educational System in Utah, says that, despite both ASU and the City of Tempe's approving the expansion, "There is a proposal, but its funding has not been approved by the church."
"The church hasn't decided on it yet," Hulbert says. "There was some publicity on the expansion, and some negative comments. And that's kind of embarrassing when the proposal hasn't even been approved."
A Phoenix-based spokeswoman for the church later called New Times and provided the church's official statement:
"Discussions with the university and city officials remain at the conceptual stage. No final decision has been reached."
Dusty Goltz had been rehearsing his one-man play Banging the Bishop: A Latter-Day Prophecy since August, preparing for opening night on October 15 at ASU's Empty Space Theatre on campus.
Goltz, a 30-year-old Ph.D. candidate at ASU's Hugh Downs School of Communication and a former member of the Mormon church (he joined up for just a year and a half beginning his senior year of high school), wrote the play three years ago, and originally performed it at the Paper Heart gallery in Phoenix in 2002. The play, says Goltz, is his autobiographical tale of coming to terms with his homosexuality, coming out in the LDS faith, then having to hide his sexual preference, and eventually going back to his original faith, Judaism.
"It's basically about the process of coming out, of self-hatred, and angst," Goltz says.
In June, Goltz added new material to the play -- which Goltz says is related to his studies in performance and ritual -- and submitted it to professor Jennifer Linde to have the play placed on the fall performance calendar. After looking at the script, and discussing the performance with Goltz, Linde put the play on the calendar for an October 15 opening.
But on October 6, a little more than a week before opening night, the curtain had already closed on Banging the Bishop.
After seeing promotional material for the play -- an e-mail Linde insists was originally intended only for the eyes of grad students in the department -- ASU professors Layne Gneiting and Kevin Ellsworth, both members of the Mormon church, expressed concerns they had with the play, although both admit they had never seen or read the play, only the e-mail.
"There were symbols -- both language and non-linguistic -- in the ad I saw that spoke against things I hold dear as a lifelong LDS," Gneiting says in his office in the bachelor of interdisciplinary studies program at ASU. "Banging the Bishop conjures up violent sexual assault, for one thing."
The e-mail, sent out to dozens of grad students on campus, said:
"Tell one, tell all, and tell especially your STUDENTS to join us because this man will make it to heaven," the message stated. "All he has to do is honor his temple covenants, serve a two-year mission, marry a good Mormon girl, have a ton of kids and keep smiling till it hurts. . . . But he's Jewish . . . and gay . . . and he masturbates A LOT! . . ."
Other issues raised by LDS students and faculty who contested the staging of the show included "the issue of nudity, and my right to speak about the Mormon church," Goltz told his colleagues in a mass e-mail to School of Communication grad students on October 12. "As for the issue of nudity, I was informed that I was within ASU policy," Goltz continued. "As for my right to speak about the Mormon church, the show is my scholarship and is directly about my life. It's the journey of my own body. I am part of a program which looks critically at social issues, and aesthetic performance events are one portion of my research."
Gneiting, however, perceived the play to be more of an attack on his faith than a critical look at social issues.
"What bothered me most was that we were using university space for just one person's experiences," Gneiting tells New Times. "[The promo] so completely violated things that I hold sacred. My faith is as much a part of my identity as anything else."
In an October 4 letter to Linde (who was also the director of the show), Bud Goodall, director of the school of communication, and school administrator Belle Edson, Gneiting wrote:
"Banging the Bishop. Its very title revolts me, and reeks of Hate Speech aimed not to elucidate one's personal experience, but to incite hatred and fear against a religion and a people who have suffered hatred, persecution, and oppression all its days," Gneiting wrote.
"Banging the Bishop, in all its connotations, is an aggressive sexual act of violence akin to rape. It not only dehumanizes and objectifies the men called to serve as Bishops of my faith, but ignites violence against them. On a campus that boldly asserts: HATE -- NOT IN THIS HOUSE, how can we turn about-face and condone, even promote, such a hate-filled show? Were another, in a fit of vengeance, to propose a show entitled Banging the Professor: Making the Grade, or Banging the Sorority Chick: She Deserved It, or Banging the . . . (insert any number of groups: Homosexuals . . . Jews . . . Muslims) I am confident the humane Hugh Downs School would censure, and prohibit, the request. As well they should! . . ."
"Others have urged me to speak decidedly, encouraging a direct address to President Crow. . . . Yet I hesitate," Gneiting continued. "I entreat you with the energy of my soul. Cancel the show. Cancel the show. Show your compassion, and cancel that show."
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.
"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."
As evidence that neither he nor his peers are backing down to the administration, Eickmeyer offered the November 4 State Press Magazine cover story, "Scary Secrets." The story, about a virtual epidemic of the sexually transmitted disease HPV on campus, was paired with a cover photo of a female torso clad in short shorts with a sign dangling from her waist that read: "Caution: Infectious Waste."
Although Eickmeyer says the paper received a few letters from unhappy readers, he hasn't heard a word about the story from Crow or his subordinates.
"I don't know what the administration will do. I don't know what they can do," Eickmeyer says. "But their threats go against everything I believe in as a journalist."
Should Crow take the ill-advised route of pursuing the State Press' demise, Student Press Law Center director Mark Goodman offers his support.
"If the evidence indicates that the reason [for a separation] was based on content decisions the student editors had made, we'd certainly be willing to offer our help to the students to take the school to court," he says.
"My sense is that if university officials are actually confronted with the fact that 'not are we only going to be embarrassed nationally by this, but we're also going to lose,'" Goodman adds, "it would have to be a very naive administration that would make that choice."
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