An inflammatory cartoon published last year in Sacramento State's student newspaper has prompted the university's provost to push for greater oversight by faculty.
Provost Joseph Sheley in September told the Publications Board made up of faculty advisers and students to make changes to The Hornet's policies or he would consider taking the newspaper out of the curriculum at California State University, Sacramento, so students would no longer earn credits for writing for it.
On Tuesday, Sheley told The Bee he doesn't want to censor the paper or break ethical rules. "I want the advisers and the editors to work a little harder," he said. "To discuss the issues and some of the pitfalls that might accompany certain kinds of stories, instead of dissecting them after the fact."
He expressed concern that many of the student reporters on the paper aren't journalism students and aren't required to take introductory journalism classes.
But that is not the message members of the Publications Board left the table with in September. On Monday, they sent the provost their response a packet of information that showed the foibles of "prior review" or "non-student review" of content before the paper is published.
Holly Heyser, the paper's faculty adviser, called the notion of prior review "repugnant."
"It offends my students and myself," she said.
In an interview, Sheley said he was upset over what he said was an "offensive" cartoon published in The Hornet last year. It pictured a man holding a baseball bat over a bound woman. In 2009, a student was allegedly beaten to death in his dorm room by a roommate.
"It was a huge wake-up call to me," Sheley said.
The Publications Board proposal to the provost included a list of recent changes at the paper, including a checklist for student reporters to use to guard against legal, accuracy, privacy, taste or ethics problems.
The board members also added a policy "not to offend for the sake of offending" to the course syllabus. The policy was established after the cartoon caused an uproar on campus and throughout the community.
Hornet Editor Dustin Nosler said the fallout over the cartoon has increased the level of scrutiny of stories at the paper and has caused editors to "take more care in what we're doing. It opened our eyes a little bit."
Sheley said he liked what he saw so far. "They are putting in place some new mechanisms that are going in the right direction," he said.
The provost said he will read all the research provided by the board and will confer with legal counsel before making any decision on changes at the paper. He plans to meet with the Publications Board again in February.
"We will talk some more," he said. "I want to look everybody in the eye and be able to say we did our best."