The Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board [BIP] has reached a verdict after the hearing held for senior Tom Fucoloro, former editor-in-chief of The Knox Student.
The BIP received a formal complaint from the Student Life Committee [SLC] against Fucoloro after he published an editorial which used information obtained off the record at a SLC meeting. After the hearing last term, it ruled that although Fucoloro should have consulted TKS advisors before publishing off-the-record information, his decision to do so was not unethical.
“In his mind, and in the opinion of several media experts, the verbal contract to go off the record was nullified when press access was put in jeopardy,” the verdict read.
The board further charged the faculty Executive Committee with “[taking] up the issue” of adapting Open Meetings Laws to Knox and rethinking the role of student press in faculty meetings, though there is no way to know now when that might take place.
“The BIP doesn’t have the authority to make rules over student presence in meetings, but the Executive Committee does,” said BIP chair Robin Ragan.
“There might be other things in line,” she said.
Still, Ragan was pleased with the results.
“I feel very happy right now, relieved. From what I’ve heard from [SLC complainant and psychology professor Tim] Kasser and [TKS advisors and journalism professors Marilyn Webb and David Amor], all three have expressed satisfaction with the results. That’s why I’m relieved,” she said.
Kasser declined to comment on the hearing results.
“I think it turned out pretty well,” said Fucoloro after the verdict was passed. “They charged the faculty Executive Committee with creating something like the Open Meetings Act, which is a huge deal for free press, so I’m pretty excited about that. That will be a challenge for next year,” he said.
This year, progress toward press access has already been made. For now, assistant professor of computer science and SLC member Don Blaheta will allow visitors to attend meetings as silent observers. Though guests will not be called on during SLC meetings, at least for the time being, they can e-mail committee members to request placement on the agenda in order to be heard by the committee.
Amor and Webb are currently drafting a Knox-appropriate version of the Illinois Open Meetings Act for SLC to consider, and until that can be put into place, Blaheta says the committee will draft a temporary version “for a set of rules we can follow ourselves.”
“The belief of the committee is that when things went bad last year, it was because there was not enough structure,” Blaheta said.
The full text of the verdict follows.
To: Former Editor-in-Chief of TKS, Tom Fucoloro
CC: David Amor, co-advisor to TKS
Marilyn Webb, co-advisor to TKS
Student Life Committee
The Board of Broadcast, Internet and Publications (BIP) held a hearing on May 30th at 6:30 pm to hear the case brought by Student Life Committee (SLC) against Tom Fucoloro, Editor-in-Chief of TKS at the time of the incident. BIP heard three hours of testimony by Tom Fucoloro, SLC members, student observers, and other witnesses or advocates. BIP also solicited the response from five media experts, including Adam Goldstein of Student Press Law Center, Fred Brown of Society for Professional Journalism (Ethics Committee), Donald Craven of Craven and Assoc. and pro bono lawyer for the Illinois College Press Association, Dave Schultz, Knox trustee and media attorney, and Tom Martin, Editor of the Register Mail. Our voting members then deliberated and adjourned at 11:30pm.
Given the testimony we find it reasonable that Tom Fucoloro felt threatened by the circumstances under which he was asked to go off the record and we recognize he had no opportunity to consult with his advisors at that point. In his mind, and in the opinion of several media experts, the verbal contract to go off the record was nullified when press access was put in jeopardy.
However, we find Tom Fucoloro irresponsible in failing to seek out the consultation of his advisors or this Board on this controversial and ambiguous issue after said meeting with SLC. In particular, Tom Fucoloro violated the agreement signed as Editor-in-Chief, promising to consult his advisors under said scenarios. Moreover, given that this Board has as its charge to protect the press from “undue pressure from faculty, administrators or students.” Fucoloro had opportunity and resources to pursue options which were less corrosive to the trust between the campus newspaper and its readers. We understand trust and confidence in journalistic integrity to be paramount in establishing a free press and a sense of community.
Given the misunderstandings that have led to the development of this case, the Board recommends that Executive Committee take up the issue of a) press presence at faculty committee meetings, b) the role of student observers at these meetings, c) guidelines under which a committee may move into Executive Session, and d) the extent to which Open Meetings Laws (active in Illinois) should apply to Knox College.
Furthermore, we charge TKS to hereby subsequently publish each Fall, with the collaboration of all staff members, a statement regarding the function of BIP and its membership. We feel all faculty, students and staff would benefit from a better understanding of the role of this Board in both protecting campus media and hearing charges against the campus media. We also require that TKS add an editorial statement on off-the-record policy along with practical scenarios to their style guide.
Broadcast, Internet, and Publications Board
Convener, Prof. Robin Ragan
Faculty Member, Prof. Lori Schroeder Haslem
Student member, Kate Tanquary
Student member, Mike Wipper