AAUP Campus Representative Condemns Witt’s Banning of Campus Newspapers

Free exchanges of ideas are vital to the University. Students should realize that UA administration’s heavy-handed actions to stop the distribution of critical newsletters, to block publicity for unfashionable speakers, to withhold embarrassing statistical data, and to circumscribe free speech threaten the academic reputation of UA and undermine the value of their degrees.

The Provost pretends that the controversy is only about paying postage. Yet coincidentally Alabama Observer and Alabama Academe, the two newsletters she has banned from free distribution in campus mail, are the ones that criticized the administration.

Why shouldn’t these papers be distributed freely, as Alabama Academe has been for over 30 years? Oh, that was an “oversight.”

The Provost, a long-time denizen of Rose who does not deign to communicate with us directly, suddenly has a touching concern for postal regulations. Well, what about other free distributions by campus mail? Are they allowed? Are the banned newsletters less concerned with the business of the University than those of departments, programs, and centers?

And what about the beautiful Christmas cards sent out by the President and the College of Arts and Sciences (hand addressed, sealed, mailed without postage)? Rob Ingram, former secretary of the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusiveness declares that printing and postage for CDI materials were paid from private funds. He does not say how much he paid, but one suspects it was much less than Campus Mail now wants to charge Observer and Academe.

Until recently any organization—academic, commercial, political—could pay $30 to Campus Mail to laser-print faculty addresses on their fliers and deliver them. Alabama Academe got printed labels for free from UA administrators. We then pasted the labels on the papers and placed them into Campus Mail.

Since the Provost’s attempted revival of the colonial Stamp Act, however, Alabama Scholars Association and Alabama AAUP have been forced to find other means of distribution.

We are willing to register as bona-fide faculty organizations, but there is no procedure. As the CW reports, the Provost defines “bona-fide” groups as “strictly based at the University, funded by the University, and only have University employees hired in the organization.”

That should cover wholly-owned subsidiaries, paid PR agents, and serfs. Yet you as newspaper editors are well aware that freedom of the press exists only as long as free people make use of it.

Maarten Ultee, Professor of History Campus Contact for AAUP [American Association of University Professors]

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