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Tabled USG resolution oversteps authority, ignores value of independent student press

A drafted resolution from the Undergraduate Student Government ignores not only America’s history, but USG, BGSU and The BG News’ own history.

The resolution, which was tabled at USG’s last meeting of the semester Monday night, calls for “action from the University to address changes to The BG News.”

Some of the action called for is the public election of an editor, a study of the relevancy of The BG News and checks and balances.

This resolution ignores a 2009 statement signed by previous University President Carol Cartwright qualifying campus media as “designated public forums,” free from censorship and advance approval of content.

“I recognize that protecting First Amendment rights betters the entire campus community,” Cartwright’s statement reads. “I realize that censorship poses a threat to the journalism learning process and inhibits the educational evolution of my students.”

What this statement does is grant The BG News editorial independence from University oversight, despite the fact that the paper has an office on campus and receives some funding from the University, but not USG itself.

USG also ignores one of its own resolutions signed in 2010 by then-president Kevin Basch in support of The BG News, acknowledging “the hard work and valuable contributions of student publications here on campus.”

As USG calls for change of the paper in it’s drafted resolution, The BG News staff urges students, faculty, staff and community members to remember the importance of an independent press.

The fact remains that, if passed, this resolution would indicate a student government that supports censorship.

“It is totally legitimate for government officials to register their displeasure with how things are covered … they cross the line with threatening to change the operational structure of the paper,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told The BG News.

The BG News sees a common misconception among groups on campus that our purpose is to write nothing but positive stories about events and organizations. While we often do write positive stories, this cannot always be the case.

The BG News exists to make sure people and organizations on campus and in the surrounding community are acting ethically, responsibly and within the confines of the law. And we, in turn, make sure we have our own systems of accountability and ethics.

For instance, readers can communicate with The News about any comments or concerns they have through guest columns, letters to the editor, clarifications or corrections.

Part of the resolution points out the grammatical errors prevalent in the publication, to which we say: We hear you.

Such errors are an unfortunate reality of an organization that is publishing content nearly every day, but we’re always working to improve with measures such as copy editing workshops.

USG is calling for transparency of The BG News. And as we work to be more transparent, we also call for USG to be more transparent. When working on resolutions, such as this one, we ask that they identify the authors’ other involvements and that members recuse themselves if a conflict of interest exists.

What USG calls for would diminish our role to being nothing more than University propaganda, completely ignoring larger issues that impact students because they may make someone look bad.

We have demonstrated our worth to the community with continuing coverage of the announced faculty cuts, stories addressing how the University is adapting to changes in state funding, investigations into health code violations in the city and much more.

The BG News points out that on the issue of the 40 faculty members who lost their jobs, an issue that undoubtedly affects students across campus, USG has remained neutral.

They also had the opportunity to pass a resolution to call for administrative action to be taken against the ‘sexist’ signs displayed on Wooster Street during move-in weekend, and instead drafted and discussed one on The BG News.

USG would be advised to reconsider its stance on a free press. A government that supports a free press for better and for worse always looks better than a government that seeks to quell criticism and discourage free speech.

If your role as elected officials is to represent the common interests of these undergraduate students on campus, consider the common interest in, and the importance of, a free press.

Respond to the Editorial Staff at

[email protected]

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