The Spokesman Speaks
In February of 2009, the Morgan State University newspaper, The Spokesman, had an article regarding the alleged misallocation of student government funds by administrators. After the article, three students spoke up and wrote perspectives regarding the matter. What has followed the article is the dismissal of the student advisor to the yearbook (The Promethean) and newspaper, a possible lawsuit (if it becomes neccessary) and what some believe is a violation of the student bill of rights.
The Spokesman delivered the following message on Facebook:
Many of you don’t know the extent of what is going on in the Spokesman Newspaper, but many of you do. The Advisor for the Spokesman and Promethean, Ms. Denise Brown, has been replaced. It was the decision of the Office of Student Activities to not reinstate her contract. Her last day will be officially Tuesday, June 30, 2009.
This decision came about as a response to four articles that were printed in the February 16, 2009 edition of the Spokesman Newspaper, which brings allegations of the Office of Student Activies misappropriating funds. A memorandum was sent to the Spokesman Office from Acres Recardo Perry, Vice Presdient of Student Affairs. In the letter, it called for the students, who wrote the letter to meet with Mr. Perry. He requested to see their notes, evidence, etc. in regard to the story.
Ms. Denise Brown responded on February 24, 2009 with a hand-delivered memorandum of her own. In it, the memorandum states that in addition to this meeting, that she and Ms. Clarissa Higgins (then Editor-In-Chief) would be present to attend the meeting. This memorandum was also sent to several others within the university (including Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson).
There was no immediate response from the office regarding the matter. In June 11th and 12, 2009, two letters, one submitted by Mr. Floyd Taliaferro (University Student Center Director) and Mr. Perry, stating that as a result of Ms. Brown not following up with the initial inquiry to have the students brought in to meet with Mr. Perry, that her contract would not be renewed until such actions were taken care of.
Shortly thereafter, Ms. Brown was told that she was being replaced and that her contract would not be renewed. She was going to be replaced by Ms. Natasha Lewis.
The outpouring of discontent has consistently flown in from inside and outside the University. Ms. Brown has been one of the most dedicated people to the students that this University has ever seen and also to those students looking to pursue Journalism. It is egregious to have the Office of Student Activities blatantly disreguard, the rights of its students and of the Advisor to the Spokesman.
The University was wrong in stating that the students provide said evidence of their story, in an effort to intimidate the students into recanting their statements. According to the Morgan State University Student Bill of Rights, Article 5, Section A states that students and the student press shall be free of censorship, prior approval of material by staff advisors, and free to determine their own editorial and news coverage policies within the confines of responsible journalism.
It furthermore states, in Section B, that Editors, managers and directors of the student media shall be protected against removal from their respective positions, or from Morgan State University as a result of administrative, faculty, and student disapproval regarding editorial policy or content.
In the replacement and addition of a new advisor, Article 4 (Freedom of Association), Section A & B, states that students shall be free to establish and join student organizations to promote their common interests and goals. The membership, operational procedures, and actions of student organizations shall be determined only by those students of the Morgan State University Community. Each Organization shall be free to choose its own advisor.
On Wednesday, June 24, 2009, I met with both Ms. Toya Corbett (Student Activities Director & Coordinator) and Mr. Floyd Taliaferro. Ms. Corbett stated to me that this organization does not have the right to choose it’s own advisor. When I subsequently asked the both of them to tell me what was going on, the simply told me that they could not tell me anything because it would violate Ms. Brown’s Right To Privacy because she was a State of Maryland Employee.
I feel angry and disrespected that they would outright lie to my face so blatantly. Article 4, Section C of the Student Bill of Rights states that students and student organizations, shall be free to investigate and discuss all issues of interest to them, as well as to express their opinions publicly and privately. They shall be free to support issues of concern to them by orderly means, that do not disrupt normal University activities.
Mr. Taliaferro, went so far as to not even discuss with me who the new Advisor of the Spokesman Newspaper would be. The Office of Student Activities continues to state to those that inquire, that the Spokesman and the Promethean are departments and not a Student Organization, and thus the Student Bill Of Rights does not apply to this matter. However, it is plain for the entire world to see, that the Spokesman and Promethean are funded with Student Government Association money and are thus registered as a student activity.
Is has even been hinted that some within the Office of Student Activities are going to change the Student Bill of Rights, without the express approval, authorization and consent of the Student Government Association ruling members and the University Board of Regents (which includes Maryland Congressman The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings – MD 7th Congressional District)
The egregious activity that has gone on for too long throughout the University must be stopped. This organization WILL NOT BE PUNKED (PLAIN AND SIMPLE). They will be broken and held accountable.
The Spokesman Insider is committed to quality journalism and ethics. The Spokesman Insider will not be run by the OK Corral. It will be run by hardworking Journalism and Communications Students, or anyone who sees fit to participate and learn. There has been a meeting set by the Office of Student Activities in the Spokesman Office, on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 set for 2 p.m. That is tentatively the last day of Ms. Denise Brown’s contract.
As of Friday, June 26, 2009, the chronicalling of the Morgan State Bear’s Mens Basketball Team and the Spokesman Insider are on hold. The University will not censor news and will not intimidate the student media. You will not receive prior approval on all material before sending out to students. The end of those within the University who do not take students seriously is OVER!!!
I have been looking to fight for a cause all of my life – to be about the students and for the students. The rights of the students will not be violated. And if the Office of Student Activities does not cease and desist this illegal activity, then we are prepared to go toe to toe. There will not be a Morgan State 2002, nor will there be a Hampton 2004.
Ryan H. Marshall
Producer, The Spokesman Insider News Show
The Hilltop is working to cover the story as it happens, but the views expressed do not represent the views of our publication.