Faculty Chair of Publications Committee Says WFR is “Too Problematic For Endorsement”

On Monday, September 22nd, Italian Professor and Chair of the Publications Committee Remí Lanzoni said that the Wake Forest Review is “problematic for an endorsement on a college campus.” He came to this conclusion because he found our publication’s content “excessive,” tone “negative and devisive,” and found our entire newspaper to be, “propaganda.” See below for the portion of his email that discusses the Review.

To be clear, the Wake Forest Review intentionally decided to not become a charted organization at Wake Forest University in order to avoid University overreach. We made this decision in spite of several University administrators, including Provost Rogan Kersh and Dean of Students Adam Goldstein, encouraging us to seek a charter. It is clearly evident from Professor Lanzoni’s email that staying independent was a wise decision. Indeed, the Faculty Chair of the Publications Committee blatantly encourages censorship of student speech through limiting what student media can become chartered organizations and through restricting the opinions that students can express through that media.

Since I was lucky enough to receive Professor Lanzoni’s email, I was able to respond to him directly. In my email, I encouraged Professor Lanzoni to “reconsider if you are suitable to be on any committee that should be supporting the free speech of students and student publications.” Furthermore, I asked him to also, “reconsider whether you should be on a college campus which is supposed to be a “marketplace of ideas,” even the ones that you don’t agree with.” You can read my full response to Professor Lanzoni below.

The controversy began after the Publications Committee met for the first time in two years. The committee consists of faculty from different parts of the undergraduate college, the faculty advisors of university-recognized student publications, and non-voting student representatives from those publications. During the meeting, the Wake Forest Review was discussed but had no representative present. Following the meeting, Professor Robert Bliss sent out an email that called the Old Gold & Black, the 101-year-old student newspaper of Wake Forest University an “amateurish” publication and said The Howler, the official yearbook of Wake Forest University, was “failing.” You can read his entire email here.

In a statement, the Executive Director of the Wake Forest Review Sabin Sidney said, “We take issue with Professor Bliss’ characterization of the Old Gold & Black as ‘amateurish,’ and applaud all students who work diligently every week to make such a strong publication. While Wake Forest Review and Old Gold & Black may differ in our missions, we share the value of ethical journalism and have a common objective to provide honest reporting that educates our Wake Forest community.” Sidney also criticized Professor Lanzoni:

Professor Lanzoni represents a number of faculty on this campus that are close-minded and want to void Wake Forest University of any opinion that is contradictory to their progressive agenda. Faculty like him represent the reason Wake Forest Review exists: balancing the conversation inside and outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, different opinions are so much of a threat to professors like this that they feel it is necessary to shut down others’ views, rather than engage critically with them. These actions are a threat to academic freedom and integrity.

You can read Sidney’s entire statement here.

It is currently not clear what kind of role the Publications Committee holds in the oversight of student publications at Wake Forest University. If this committee chooses to exert any control over the editorial decisions of chartered student publications or stop any conservative publication from gaining a charter, Wake Forest University students will no longer enjoy the free press they have today.

We will update the article as the story continues to develop.

One Comment

  1. We all should be able to discuss the questions raised by Professor Lazoni’s and Professor Zerwick’s responses to my now-infamous email without resorting to personal attacks. It is better to stick to the ideas and issues involved.

    I too am concerned that some faculty and many students seek to suppress view points they disagree with. The issue that the Committee on Publications and the WFU community in general should consider is NOT whether they individually like a publication and the views that publication presents, but rather whether that publication represents a sizeable student constituency that is entitled to have their voices heard (what students are not entitled to be heard?) and does so in a reasonably professional manner. Requiring a higher level of competence in writing and civility of discourse than is exhibited by the OG&B would constitute viewpoint suppression.

    In contrast to Professor Lazoni, and others, I believe:
    While the OG&B is chartered and funded by the university, that does not constitute an endorsement of the paper’s positions by the university. This should be obvious as the paper uses so much space vigorously criticizing the university administration.

    Secondly, the university administration should seek to be more inclusive and “expand the tent” of student publications, currently limited to two (the second is the year book). This does not mean funding or chartering other newspapers. But they should “recognize” other papers as legitimate alternatives to the OG&B and provide links to those papers from a web page on the WFU web site. That web page should articulate the university’s statement of principles regarding a free student press and the university’s standards for newspapers seeking listing. It is inconsistent with WFU’s articulated commitment to inclusion to have only one recognized student newspaper.

    It should not need saying, but is: The above are my own personal opinions and not those of the Committee on Student Publications or anyone else.