There is an important free speech fight going on at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT. The short version of the story can be found in the petition below and the fact sheet that follows the petition. For more information and many key documents, you can visit http://freespeechcentral.wordpress.com. If you would like to sign the petition, please go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/reinstate-anti-war-opinion-editor.
To The Recorder Staff—
It has come to our attention that on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, The Recorder’s Opinion Editor Marissa Blaszko was fired from her position for an alleged conflict of interest. The Recorder’s editor-in-chief called Marissa into a private meeting and presented her with an ultimatum to quit campus activism or resign her position with the student newspaper. Marissa refused to make a choice. She was later locked out of the office and fired.
The editor-in-chief told Marissa that she was being fired for her prominence in campus activism and her membership in the Youth for Socialist Action club, and not based on her job performance. It was explained to her that editors are forbidden to participate in campus protests against the Iraq war, or bring to campus the author of a new book on the frame-up of journalist and death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.
We declare as invalid any internal code or policy of The Recorder which presumes to grant its editor-in-chief the authority to purge the staff of such political convictions and activities as he or she finds disagreeable. Such an absurd claim to power contradicts every official policy of the University, every civil liberties legal precedent of the past 40 years, not to mention the animating spirit of our state and federal constitutions.
We consider Marissa’s firing and any internal policy which its perpetrators would produce in an attempt to justify it as a subversion of basic democratic rights. Under no circumstances does an employer ever have the right to fire an employee for legally exercising her constitutional rights.
We demand Marissa’s immediate and unconditional reinstatement to her position at The Recorder, along with a reaffirmation from the newspaper editors that it will not tolerate discrimination against its staff on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual preference, personal views or affiliations, or any other conditions established by the law.
Marissa Blaszko, Youth for Socialist Action
Melissa Cordner, President of Pride, Editor-In-Chief of Off-Center Magazine
Joseph O’Keef, Vice President and Treasurer of Veterans Appreciation Organization
Lillian Brabner, SGA Senator and Managing Editor of Off-Center Magazine
Ala’a Alsaqri, President of the Muslim Student Association
Aaron McAuliffe, Vice-President of CCSU Pride
Sean Howard, President of Youth for Socialist Action
Ryan Sheehan, SGA Senator
Amanda Ciccatelli, Former News Editor of The Recorder
Jane Natoli, Former Lifestyles Editor of the Recorder
Christopher Hutchinson, Former Opinion Editor of The Recorder
James Windeagle, President of Native American Club, Radio Station DJ
Erum Mahmud, Treasurer of MSA, Former Secretary of International Relations Club
Wesley Strong, Organizer of CT Students Against the War, Former President of Progressive Student Alliance
Richard Mount, Secretary of Off-Center Magazine
Michael Gendron, CCSU-AAUP President
Jeffrey McGowan, Assistant Chair, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Mike Alewitz, Associate Professor of Art
Carol Austad, Professor of Psychology
Betsy Kaminski, Professor of Sociology
Heather Prescott, Professor of History
Warren Perry, Professor of Anthropology
John O’Connor, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Katherine Hermes, Professor of History
Evelyn Philips, Professor of Anthropology
Farough Abed, Professor of Education
Aram Ayalon, Professor of Teacher Education
Rachel Siporin, Professor of Art
Don Adams, Professor of Philosophy
Steven W. Horowitz, Professor of Psychology
Briann Greenfield, Professor of History
Tim Craine, Professor of Mathematical Sciences
David A. Kideckel, Professor of Anthropology
Jerold Duquette, Professor of Political Science
Mark Strathy, Professor of Art
Carolyn R. Fallahi, Professor of Psychology
Sadu Nanjundiah, Professor of Physics
Eleanor Godway, Professor of Philosophy
Briann Greenfield, Professor of History
Lawrence Kleinm, Professor of Educational Foundations
Mary Patrice Erdmans, Professor of Sociology
Chengiah Ragaven, Professor of International Studies
Elizabeth Aaronsohn, Professor of Education
Tom Edwards, Professor of Art
Stephen Adair, Professor of Sociology
Matt Ciscel, Associate Professor of English
Ron Todd, Professor of Art
Tom Hazuka, Professor of English
Steve Balkaran, Philosophy Lecturer
Edward Iglesias, Systems Librarian
William Shakalis, Adjunct Cataloging Librarian
Melinda Baumgartner, Secretary for Department of Anthropology and International Studies
Michelle St. Pierre, Assistant to the Art Department
Sky Keyes, University of Hartford, Center for Social Research
Tammy Casanova, CCSU Class of 2002
Paige Brackett, Off-Center
Brittany Kilburn, Youth for Socialist Action
Kari Sledzik, Women Involved Now, Progressive Student Alliance
Joan Barker, Youth for Socialist Action
Alexandra King, Progressive Student Alliance
Greg Kuron , graduate student
Kevin R. Casey, graduate student
Asuka Miyazawa, Student
Max Kyhin, Student
Katt Robinson, Student
Oake Meise-Munns, Student
Katia Porter, Student
Aaron Simons, Student
Courtney Smith, Student
Pal Laflesh, Student
Dan Herman, Student
Jamie Caffary, Student
Elizabeth Seust, Student
Kate Anderson, Student
Leslie Boppert, Student
Benjamin Rivera, Student
Arjun Patel, Student
Justin Sylvia, Student
Audrey P. Aresco, Student
Alison P. Aresco, Student
Aaron Benelyn, Student
Victoria Edwards, Student
Daniel Zaputa, Student
Richard Perez, Student
Anas Alarashi, Student
Scott Hunyadi, Student
Brian Dittrich, Student
Nick Deaky, Student
Shane Cianli, Student
Camille Ferrara, Student
Charles Kandetzki, Student
Dave Newell, Student
Andrew Manurso, Student
Abdullah Kahn, Studuent
Elysee Sanon, Student
Jaclynn Lewis, Student
Samantha Magri, Student
Jamie Donahue, Student
Som Borivong, Student
Seana Asklar, Student
Reed Hansen, Student
Courtney Hoffman, Student
Jonathan Paro, Student
Kyrstie Savoy, Student
Kelly McIntyre, Student
Joyce Noble, Student
Jessie Thomas, Student
Michael Montambault, Student
Kofi Frimpong, Student
Ryan McDee, Student
Kavin Soslia, Student
Michael Weiss, Student
Christina Janeiro, Student
Alejandro Dominguez, Student
Cheryl Cianci, Student
Rahul Samanta, Student
Anna Murfin, Student
Ben Pucci, Student
Katherine Deuler, Student
Ashley Laone, Student
Nicole Walbert, Student
Ian MacDonald, Student
Philip Piccolo, Student
Kristina Rowella, Student
Edmund Srandale, Student
Richard Richard Grandzinski, Student
Kerne Cobin, Student
Felicia Gee, Student
Jeremy Jordan, Student
Claire Barber, Student
Brianna Schirra, Student
Andrew Cusson, Student
Nicole Shaw, Student
Lauren Pelletier, Student
Jessie Petroka, Student
Viola Kaci, Student
Christian Ayala, Student
Abby Southworth, Student
Tyreece Gary, Student
Don Aliff, Student
Abby Jenson, Student
Briana Hoffman, Student
Kendell Soliwoda, Student
Rajita Kasireddy, Student
Ashley Lodovico, Student
Rohan Speid, Student
Lauren Hoganson, Student
Joel Sonstroem, Student
Denisa Murtich, Student
Kurt S Jagielow, Student
Adam Krakowiak, Student
Erica Stair, Student
Patricio Cabrera, Student
Daniel Roberts, Student
Eileen Smith, Student
Caleb Johnson, Student
Quantia Edwards, Student
Mathew Church, Student
Deborah Russo, Student
Lilian Silva, Student
Rob Burke, Student
Nicole Kiefer, Student
Henry Fischer, Student
Chris Kulmann, Student
Ian O’Hala, Student
Michael Brown, Student
Stephen St. John, Student
10 Reasons This Matters
Still not convinced that the Recorder’s actions, as well as our own, affect all students? Here are 10 reasons why you should sign this petition and get involved with this fight:
1. The Recorder ran an editorial this week threatening to fire any writer or editor for “political beliefs and leanings that are acted upon in public.
The editorial was the Recorder’s defense for having fired its opinion editor, Marissa Blaszko, for her prominence in campus activism against the Iraq war and her membership in the Youth for Socialist Action club on campus.
2. The Recorder has already censored Marissa’s articles this year. This include:
“Losing” at least half a dozen of Marissa’s articles, including a column in support of the CCSU faculty’s union, the AAUP, for its stand against budget cuts which urges them to mobilize maintenance staff and students in support of their demands for cheaper education.
Refusing to publish column about the college-student strikes against tuition hikes in Paris, Athens, and New York City.
Refusing to publish an article about a campus lecture by the author of a new book on death-row inmate, journalist and ex-Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal.
3. Our student paper needs to welcome a diversity of views.
The Recorder ignores significant events on campus, including last semester’s opening of the Veteran Drop-In Center and the Culture Shock performance by the Africana Student Organization.
4. What the Recorder calls “objectivity” is only bias by another name.
Erin McAuliffe, vice-president of PRIDE, a gay rights group on campus, was denied a promotion to editor after she refused to support a newspaper editorial that attacked her club.
The opinion page was taken away from Marissa Blaszko, a member of Youth for Socialist Action, and given to College Republican Shauna Simone.
One staff writer who organized campus protests against Scientology was allowed to publish a series of attacks on that institution, yet articles written by a student-activist which criticized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were discouraged.
Marissa Blaszko was explicitly forbidden to write in favor of worldwide protests that called for an end to U.S. military support for the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.
5. If The Recorder’s mission is to train college students to think like corporate news reporters, then shouldn’t the Journalism Department fund it?
Our student fees should go to a newspaper that is more receptive and accommodating to the broad range of student views.
6. The Recorder follows the same “code of objectivity” which has established corporate rule over the flow of information in our democracy.
Forty-one percent of professional journalists admit they “softened” or “reshaped” stories out of fear for their jobs. *1
Twenty-five percent of professional journalists have avoided pursuing newsworthy stories for the same reason.
Thirty percent of professional journalists believe that stories are ignored because they might conflict with the financial interest of their owners or advertisers.
7. This decision sets a dangerous precedent for students and faculty on campus.
Other campus media-outlets may have their charters revoked if their student directors opposed the firing.
Could ‘non-political’ clubs lose funding if they endorse or participate in an activity deemed “political”?
Does this mean it’s okay to fire a professor for his or her “political leanings that are acted on in public”?
8. In this week’s issue of the paper, the editorial board swears that “The Recorder will not abandon its stance and the former Opinion Editor will remain as such.”
It will take students from across campus to defend our constitutional rights.
9. The opinion editor was fired for her willingness to write about issues pertaining to the rights of women, Arabs, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, veterans, and the LGBT community.
By signing, you will join student leaders from Women Involved Now, PRIDE, Latin American Student Organization, Muslim Student Association, Africana Students Organization, Veterans Appreciation Organization, Progressive Student Alliance, and Youth for Socialist Action.
10. The world is turning upside-down with layoffs, home foreclosures, tuition hikes, contract renegotiations, and state budget cuts to higher education.
Student-journalists will need their First Amendment freedoms guaranteed if they’re expected to write about the issues that most concern the student body and faculty.
Read the petition today, and click http://www.thepetit ionsite.com/1/reinstate- anti-war-opinion-editor. to get your name added!
*1 These are among the findings in a major survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Columbia Journalism Review. A total of 287 journalists were polled, including 81 senior editors and executives. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-27837023_ITM