Roger Williams U Gets into the Censorship Game? (UPDATED)
First it was the URI College Republicans, now a couple conservative college radio hosts have been “fired” from WQRI, the Roger Williams University student radio station. Their offense? Repeating the Don Imus “nappy headed ho” phrase on the air while discussing the incident itself. Call it second-hand censorship.
Now, I believe that because RWU is a private institution, 1st Amendment issues are not necessarily applicable, as they are in the URI case. However, given the “mission” of free and open discussion that most liberal arts schools claim to promote (though RWU’s stated mission is not quite so explicit), there can be little doubt that ideological based censorship lay behind this action. That being said, RWU is proud to claim that it upholds the ideals of it’s namesake, explaining:
The University has dedicated itself to the ideals advocated by Roger Williams himself: education, freedom and tolerance. Through his scholarship in language, theology and law, Williams’ life reflected the value of learning and teaching. The University honors his legacy by modeling a community in which diverse people and diverse ideas are valued, intellectual achievement is celebrated and civic responsibility is expected.
Well, apparently not all diversity–like intellectual or political–is equal. The students weren’t being intolerant by repeating the phrase that set off a media controversy, but Roger Williams University certainly appears to be.
If they haven’t already, the students should contact FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to help them with their case. They’ve certainly helped the URI Republicans (even if the Student Senate still refuses to budge–more on that here).
FYI, Dan Yorke is promoting an interview with the students this afternoon.
UPDATE: First, I appended (in the extended entry) the press release that the hosts of the conservative talk show “Morning Again”, Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, issued. Second, apparently they were directed to not use the term at all and then used it 30 times in a 25 minute period. So, there are some management issues here, too. However, it also appears as if the station administration hasn’t been able to get their story straight. In short, it looks like Peloso and Porter purposefully provoked the situation…but is that cause for firing, when the usual action would be a suspension? Or did they cross a line and deserve what they got? More to come.
UPDATE II: Alex Kuffner of the Projo reports on the story here.
Here is a press release issued by Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, hosts of the Tuesday morning conservative talk show “Morning Again”:
Vice President of Roger Williams University practicing censorship and depriving students their freedom of speech! Student Radio Program Director suspends Conservative Hosts!
As of 5:15pm April 24, 2007 student lead radio hosts Dana Peloso and Jon Porter, hosts of the Tuesday morning conservative talk show “Morning Again” on 88.3 WQRI at Roger Williams University have been suspended indefinitely for their coverage of the recent Don Imus Firing. They received the word of the suspension from WQRI program director Mike Martelli who has been heavily influenced by the Vice President of the University, John King. King contacted Martelli last week in a feeble attempt to have the show pulled when the dual hosts covered the news worthy item on a special Sunday edition of their show. King said the wording “Nappy Headed Hoe’s” was distasteful for the radio even though the hosts weren’t using the phrases in a derogatory inflammatory way, rather reporting the news as it was current. This morning’s edition of the show started out as normal, with the two leading into the now current news of Kings attempt to un-justfully censor the radio show. This morning’s show has been recorded for further press releases and on request, although the quality is not the best due to the technology in the studio, but it is more than understandable. Martellis order to have the two pulled from their morning routine comes only after King was asked to appear on the show and defend his stances on the issue; King not only refused, but subsequently Martelli Has ordered the “Morning Again” radio show pulled until further notice. When asked who made the complaints about this mornings show, Martelli responded only with “That’s not for you to know, you work for me, not the other way around.” For further questions or comment feel free to contact show host Dana Peloso who also serves as the Chapter Chairman of the College Republicans at Roger Williams University at 617-785-1732 or via Email firstname.lastname@example.org.