The Daily Reflector | MSNBC
The National Press Photographers Association is hoping to persuade East Carolina University to rehire a student adviser who was fired after a streaker photo appeared in the student newspaper. NPPA President Sean Elliot sent ECU’s chancellor a letter Tuesday expressing the organization’s concern. Paul Isom was fired earlier this month; Isom believes his dismissal was retaliation for protecting the students’ right to publish without prior restraint. ECU issued a statement Tuesday that said the firing was not related to the photo or any First Amendment issues. The statement from Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy reads, in part:
East Carolina University is concerned that a decision to change leadership in its director of student media role has been connected to a First Amendment issue without full knowledge of the facts at hand. It is important to distinguish between any personnel matter and the First Amendment.
We ask all advocacy groups and the public to trust our internal process, which has been deliberate, correct and legal, as we move forward to address these two separate issues.
The First Amendment demands public universities provide student journalists the opportunity to make their own news decisions and learn from them without interference. ECU puts that principle first. It has upheld it, especially in this instance.
Letter sent by NPPA
Chancellor Steve Ballard
East Carolina University
Office of the Chancellor
East Fifth St.
Greenville, NC 27858
Sent via e-mail
Dear Chancellor Ballard,
The National Press Photographers Association wishes to express its deep concern over the recent termination by ECU of the The East Carolinian’s student adviser. Reportedly members of the newspaper’s editorial board were informed by a senior ECU administrator that they might face “consequences” due to their controversial editorial decision. Firing their adviser because of that decision sends the wrong message to students and supporters of the school and the paper about respect for a free press under the First Amendment.
It is our understanding that the East Carolinian, while funded by student activity fees at the university, enjoys editorial independence. Rather than providing a “teachable moment” for students, actions such as this do just the opposite by chilling free speech.
As an institution of higher learning we would expect that the ECU administration would know better.
Therefore, we respectfully request that Mr. Isom be reinstated to his position and that the university renew its commitment to supporting high journalistic standards as well as an independent and unfettered student press.
Sean D. Elliot
National Press Photographers Association