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Letter to the Editor: Dr. Barbara Fowles

Last updated on Nov 30, 2018

To the editors,

I was appalled and saddened to learn about recent treatment of the Pioneer editor and a staff writer by LIU administrators. It is my understanding that in the Pioneer’s reporting on the “Common Sense” pamphlet, the Dean of Students asked the editors to leave out information about Professor Cherie Serota until he could research a response. I am proud that the Pioneer made an independent and responsible decision to omit that information until it was fully and fairly reported. However, when they went to meet with the Dean of Students again, supposedly to obtain the requested information, they were faced with not just the Dean of Students, but also the university Public Relations Spokesperson and the University Counsel (by phone).

Not only is such a meeting intimidating for a student, but her adviser or another professor should have been invited to attend with her, especially given the participation of the University Attorney.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that the three administrators never did answer the Pioneer’s questions about Professor Serota regarding her dual roles as a faculty member/program director while also serving on the Board of Trustees, but instead spent most of the meeting berating the editor and staff writer about the Pioneer’s reporting on the “Common Sense” pamphlet, claiming that it was inappropriate content that should not have been reported. Of course, the editors of a student newspaper must make independent decisions about what is appropriate and not appropriate content for their newspaper, and administrators cannot and should not dictate that content. If the students make a considered judgment that a story is newsworthy, then administrators should not question that judgment. This is a critical First Amendment standard that all members of an academic community, at whatever level, should respect.

I am incredibly proud that the Pioneer is keeping our campus informed in a professional, unbiased and thoughtful manner. Administrators should not stand in the way of that hard work, and indeed should be praising and supporting our students for it, rather than throwing obstacles and threats in their paths.

It is extremely disappointing to see university administrators stooping to this level. They should all be ashamed.

Barbara Fowles, Ph.D
Professor of Communications and Film College of Arts, Communications & Design

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