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Archive for Wednesday, December 3, 1997

S OUSTER DRAWS STUDENT CONCERN

December 3, 1997

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Free speech issues have been raised in light of the recent dismissal of the University Daily Kansan editor.

The firing of the editor of Kansas University's student newspaper continued to stir debate on campus Monday and Tuesday.

Letters sent to the newsroom of the University Daily Kansan have generally favored Spencer Duncan, the KU junior who was voted out of the editor's position last week by the Kansan Board.

According to board members, it was the first time an editor had been fired. Duncan refused an initial opportunity to resign.

Two letters published in Tuesday's Kansan described the ouster as an attack on free speech.

"While I acknowledge that mistakes were made, I think some of them were your basic college newspaper mistakes, and some of them were beyond my control," Duncan said Tuesday. "As far as I knew the board was happy with my performance because I had no indication otherwise."

The Kansan Board, a group of faculty members and advisers authorized to hire and fire Kansan editors, called a meeting the afternoon of Nov. 24 to ask Duncan about a number of news decisions. He was fired the same day.

Board members pointed to photo captions containing sexual innuendo and others with generally offensive remarks. In one, KU facilities operations employees placing the university seal in front of Budig Hall were pictured next to the line "How many F&O workers does it take ..."

Another incident involved a female student's name being inserted suggestively into the horoscope section of a recent edition.

Duncan, who plans to stay on staff as a columnist and news designer in the spring, said he should have been informed earlier in the semester that his job may be in jeopardy.

"It's a laboratory for students, and I think there's a responsibility for the board to teach us as we go along," Duncan said. "And I don't feel like that was there."

John Ginn, chair and spokesman of the Kansan Board, could not be reached for comment.

Bradley Brooks, KU senior and Kansan editorial editor, said the student editorial board planned to meet this afternoon to discuss whether the paper should take a position on the issue.

"The (Kansan) board is not really giving extremely specific reasons for Spencer's firing," Brooks said. "Just the idea that this entity can come down on their student newspaper like that ... "

Brooks said the incident would likely prompt an examination into the role of the board in regulating the student newspaper's affairs.

KU senior and spring Kansan editor Lindsey Henry, who agreed to take over early after Duncan's dismissal, said the newsroom was "functioning as well as can be expected."

Including Wednesday's issue, five remained before the end of the semester.

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