Florida Atlantic University’s Journalism Task Force is no more. The university shut it down last week blaming it on certain troublemakers.

In December SFGN published an op-ed criticizing the task force for closing a meeting to the public that experts said should have been open under the state’s open government laws.

The university never responded to SFGN’s criticism. Instead they just quietly shut their task force down with an email to members.

“Thank you for participating on the Journalism Task Force, which was developed with the goal of assisting us to improve student journalism at FAU. Due to the desire of some individuals to create unnecessary conflict that does not contribute to the progress of student journalism at FAU or aid in the progress of designing a better learning experience for students, we have decided to suspend the activities of the task force,” wrote Heather Coltman, arts and letters dean, and Corey King, student affairs vice president. “The work of ensuring that student journalism thrives at FAU, however, will continue under the direction of the faculty advisors selected specifically because of their professional journalism credentials.”

I wasn’t the only one who criticized FAU. The student newspaper’s volunteer adviser also did so saying on his blog “I’m now banned from these meetings. Legal or not, it’s amusing. Journalism professors who teach about the value of transparency are closing meetings about the journalism they want to see in a student newspaper at a public university.”

I would hardly say criticizing FAU for not following the law is creating “unnecessary conflict.” Meanwhile standing up for transparency does in fact “contribute to the progress of student journalism.”

“The reason we have a legal requirement to conduct meetings in the open is because closed meetings inherently breed distrust,” said Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center. “Any decision produced by a meeting from which the public is purposefully and consciously excluded will be tainted by a cloud of illegitimacy.”

If they believed they were right they could have fought back, sought out case law that bolstered their position. Or they could have rethought their position and decided to open up the meetings. But by shutting down the task force they reinforced one of the points I made in my last op-ed, “FAU officials have a long history of attempting to intimidate student journalists.”

And I am not the only one who believes that.

“If there’s any university in America that has earned zero benefit of the doubt in its treatment of journalists, it’s Florida Atlantic, with its deplorably long rap sheet of stonewalling and harassment,” LoMonte said.

Perhaps the task force was a sham to begin with. Before its creation the university already had a Student Media Advisory Board that appeared to have a similar purpose as the Journalism Task Force.

“Just got word that his ‘task force’ was suspended! This is a major win for students and student media,” wrote Christopher Ferreira, a member of student government and the Student Media Advisory Board.

Closing down the meeting was just another way of attempting to exert complete control over the process and when things didn’t go their way, like petulant children, they stopped playing and took their toys home.


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