Letter from the Editor: Student Press Freedoms at Radford University

An editor letter addressing Radford University requesting an apology and a commitment for better communication to its community, now and in the future.

It’s been 133 days since The Tartan’s newspapers were stolen Sept. 18.

Still no conclusion.

The Tartan stands as an independent entity of Radford University that reports news, events, and writes editorials that keep the community aware of problems impacting their daily lives and holds administrators, professors, classified staff employees, and even students accountable.

“If the Radford leaders continue to stonewall, they might as well serve notice to the world: At Radford, when studying the Bill of Rights, students should only pay attention to the Second through 10th Amendments. Don’t bother with that First one,” wrote the Virginia Lawyers Weekly in a recent editorial.

Journalists don’t get all the facts, and they never will, but it’s even more odd when an act such as the theft directly happens to the journalists themselves

Imagine going into a restaurant and taking all of their “free” bread, going into an interstate rest area and taking all of the “free” brochures and pamphlets, or let’s say it’s Halloween, and you take the entire neighborhoods “free” candy – robbing the little ones of sugary filled dreams. 

Those families and employees, I would imagine, wouldn’t be too happy.

Theft is never okay and made even worse when it’s covered up.

The Tartan’s mission is to be a voice for the students: a teaching ground for journalists. It promotes unbiased content and strives for the truth, but when its newspapers are stolen, that is a direct assault on the First Amendment. This theft takes from the Radford community as a whole.

Excellent communication is key to a thriving campus. At Radford University, it feels hard as a student to promote their new motto of being Responsive, Resilient, and Real when those words seem the opposite.

Let’s try Apathetic, Fragile, and Fake.

Stonewalling (delaying and blocking information) The Tartan and the public is not an acceptable path to take.

Not retaining surveillance videos, requested under the Freedom of Information Act, is reprehensible. 

Not clearly presenting information that will affect the university and its students is misleading.

Having only a few bulletin boards and flyers being torn down shows students that discourse and communication are discouraged. 

I am asking the Radford administration for a letter of apology, a commitment for better communication to its students, staff, and faculty, and to show that they stand behind student journalists and their never-ending fight for the truth, now and in the future.

I love Radford University. The professors, students, and faculty I have met and built relationships with are priceless; however, this is “What Student Press Freedom Looks Like,” to be able to tell the truth and stand our ground on The Tartan’s reporting, and admit when we are in the wrong, without fear of censorship when some of those topics might be a hard pill to swallow. 

It’s been 133 days since The Tartan’s newspapers were stolen Sept. 18.

Still no conclusion.

The theft is no longer a Tartan issue as it sets a bad precedent on First Amendment rights. 

The SPJ Virginia Pro Board of Directors wrote in a letter addressed to Radford University, “First Amendment principles, even in a school setting, are a foundation for democracy and good government. Institutions of higher learning should seek to foster respect and appreciation for the role of an independent press in our society. RU can show its students and the surrounding community that it values quality journalism by supporting its student newspaper in these aforementioned decisions. Colleges and universities should provide no strings attached support for the perspective student journalists offer — even if it is occasionally uncomfortable to read.”

It continues, “At a time when journalists in the U.S. and around the world are under attack, it is the clear duty of all Virginia universities to strongly remind citizens of the legacy of free speech and press. Virginians wrote the world’s earliest constitutional law declaring government the protector of these inherent rights. The press plays an important role, even in a campus community.”

Show the support your community is looking for and speak up.

Thank you,

Dylan Lepore’20

Editor-in-Chief, The Tartan


Photo Credit: Student Press Law Center