ECU Says Adviser Firing Not First Amendment Issue

East Carolina University says the firing of its adviser to the student-run newspaper is not connected to a First Amendment issue of the university interfering with editorial decisions of the paper.

Last week Paul Isom was fired nearly two months after The East Carolinian published an uncensored photo of a streaker at a football game. Isom said publishing the photo caused him to be let go as director of student media at the university.

A national group, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has called for Chancellor Steve Ballard to reinstate Isom, saying his firing violates the First Amendment.

But in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy says there are two separate issues. Hardy says those who are connecting Isom's dismissal with the First Amendment don't have full knowledge of the facts. "We ask all advocacy groups and the public to trust our internal process, which has been deliberate, correct and legal, as we move forward to address these two separate issues," Hardy said in the statement.

In November Hardy said the university didn't agree with the publishing of the nude photo and would be having discussions with those involved.

In her latest statement, Hardy says the First Amendment demands public universities allow student journalists to make their own editorial decisions. "ECU puts that principal first," said Hardy. "It has upheld it, especially in this instance."

The university has not said why it fired Isom, and has refused to release any public documents on his dismissal.

On its website, the foundation wrote "ECU's decision to fire Isom will result in an impermissible chill on all student media with advisers, who are now subject to termination whenever the university disagrees with students' editorial decisions. FIRE has asked ECU to meet its legal and moral obligation to respect freedom of expression and to reinstate Isom immediately."


ECU Statement

Statement by Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs, on East Carolina University’s record and responsibilities in regards to the First Amendment and its student-run newspaper, the East Carolinian:

East Carolina University is concerned that a decision to change leadership in its director of student media role has been connected to a First Amendment issue without full knowledge of the facts at hand. It is important to distinguish between any personnel matter and the First Amendment.

We ask all advocacy groups and the public to trust our internal process, which has been deliberate, correct and legal, as we move forward to address these two separate issues.

The First Amendment demands public universities provide student journalists the opportunity to make their own news decisions and learn from them without interference. ECU puts that principle first. It has upheld it, especially in this instance.

We support The East Carolinian fully. Students have been the central focus of what we have done and the decisions that have been made. We have involved them openly when it was constructive and useful for their education, including holding open, informational discussions with the editorial staff to talk about the impact of news decisions.

Regarding editorial decisions in student media, we have respectfully allowed the student journalists to take their own course. We have and will continue to support their right to make decisions in publishing a newspaper for their fellow students.


Previous Story

A national group is calling on ECU to reinstate the adviser of the student newspaper who was recently fired.

The group "Foundation for Individual Rights in Education" has sent a letter to East Carolina University Chancellor Steve Ballard, saying the firing of the ECU adviser to the student newspaper violates the First Amendment. Paul Isom lost his job last week, two months after The East Carolinian published an uncensored picture of the streaker at a football game. The group is asking ECU to reinstate Isom.

On its website, the foundation wrote "ECU's decision to fire Isom will result in an impermissible chill on all student media with advisers, who are now subject to termination whenever the university disagrees with students' editorial decisions. FIRE has asked ECU to meet its legal and moral obligation to respect freedom of expression and to reinstate Isom immediately."



Previous Story:

The adviser to the student-run newspaper at East Carolina University has been fired, nearly two months after the paper ran the nude photo of a streaker.

Paul Isom says he was fired Wednesday by the university. He says the streaker photo is what "started it all".

The newspaper came under fire after it ran a front page photograph of John Sieglinger who streaked onto the field at the Southern Miss game during half-time. The unedited photo of Sieglinger showing frontal nudity was published November 8th.

Isom tells WITN News that he was informed Wednesday he had four hours to clean out his office and leave the university. Isom said he was given no explanation, other than ECU "wanted to move in a different direction."

In November ECU says the decision by the newspaper to publish the photo with full frontal nudity "was in very poor taste."

At the time, Vice Chancellor Virginia Hardy said the university would be having "conversations with those who were involved" in this decision in an effort "to make it a learning experience." Hardy said the leadership at East Carolina did not agree with the decision to publish the photo, nor did it support it.

Isom told WITN he was surprised by the decision to let him go saying, "In college student media, the adviser stays out of the editorial process, my job is to give them the resources they need, whether that's equipment, training, what have you, to make the best decisions they can, then get out of the way. Unfortunately folks at ECU, the administrators who make the decisions, don't seem to understand first amendment issues or journalistic issues and I paid the consequences for that."

WITN requested a copy of Isom's dismissal letter, but the university said it was not public record since the employee was not fired for disciplinary reasons.

In a news release, Vice Chancellor Hardy said Isom was dismissed Wednesday. “We will not make any additional comment because this is a personnel matter,” Hardy said.

Isom oversaw all campus student media outlets and he directly advised three of them, including the student-run The East Carolinian newspaper, The Rebel and the Buccaneer yearbook.

Isom had been with ECU since 2008.


You must be logged in to post comments.

Username:
Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Patsy Cline on Jan 13, 2012 at 06:58 AM
    He's already been fired, case closed.
  • by Case Closed on Jan 11, 2012 at 08:08 AM
    This should be the last of this, right? He wasn't fired because of the photo... so case closed?
  • by Anonymous on Jan 11, 2012 at 03:03 AM
    How many more staff at ECU are just as lazy and foster just as poor moral values. It is time to audit every staff position to determine if the students are getting the most bang for their buck. Tuition keeps rising every year.
    • reply
      by How dumb are you on Jan 11, 2012 at 09:44 AM in reply to
      Man you are dumb.....
  • by what about... Location: Greenville on Jan 10, 2012 at 07:36 PM
    Something not mentioned, it wasn't just the newspaper, but the photos were on the EC website. Was that breaking some kind of ECU computer use rule? What about putting out the nude pictures around campus? That's another ECU policy violation policy... it's not just about the constitution here and those students should have been held accountable.
  • by Ralph Location: Winterville on Jan 10, 2012 at 05:10 PM
    Have you ever read the paper? It is a rag. They have no respect for anyone including the students. Last you they attacked the Salvation Army bell ringers. Their opinion writers did not do their homework. They made Fox need look like a real news station. I always saw stacks of the paper around and no one reading it. The news coverage was terrible.
  • by cold hard truth telling on Jan 10, 2012 at 03:18 PM
    Are you kidding me? ECU has become a complete joke! A streaker is not the only problem this school has! Bleachers that can't be sit on last year, then numerous athletic arrests all kinds of crime and before you even say other schools have problems with crime to. Name me 1 other school with this many arrests on a girls basketball team? I can talk because I graduated from ECU. Stick your heads in the sand and ignore all these problems to numerous to list if you want to but my kids will not go to ECU sadly I wished I hadn't have wasted time going there either. The big east bypassed ecu and went to the rockies to get a team for a reason.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 10, 2012 at 06:19 PM in reply to cold hard truth telling
      I sure hope you were not an English major! Your grammar and composition skills are atrocious. Do us all a favor, please admit to no one that you attended ECU. You're an embarrassment.
    • reply
      by Bullard on Jan 10, 2012 at 06:23 PM in reply to cold hard truth telling
      Please, please, please... cold hard truth telling; don't admit that you majored in English composition.
    • reply
      by Steve on Jan 10, 2012 at 06:27 PM in reply to cold hard truth telling
      If you would deny your child a first class education because of bleacher seats, athletes have been arrested like every other university and because of athletic conference affiliation you are the one with your head in the sand. It is obvious based on your ignorant comments that you are blaming your lack of achievement in life on ECU.
      • reply
        by cold hard truth telling on Jan 11, 2012 at 10:43 AM in reply to Steve
        I would be denying my kids a first class education by sending them to the woeful mess. As far as my English composition and grammar do YA'LL text in complete sentences. I don't and I AIN't! You know I am right about the place . I wasted my time, money and effort there but my kids won't! This is my last statement about ECU! Enjoy your dillusions about ECU outside of NC know one knows where its at!
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jan 11, 2012 at 02:22 PM in reply to cold hard truth telling
          Not only are you functionally illiterate, but you apparently also have emotional health issues. PLEASE don't send your kids to ECU. (you know the old saying about the apple not falling far from the tree?... or maybe, given your lack of wit... you have NOT heard this expression)?
  • by No, really! on Jan 10, 2012 at 03:11 PM
    It's just a coincidence. Really. The firing isn't related to the pic. Honest! Two separate issues.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 10, 2012 at 01:05 PM
    Oh no, a picture of a penis! Really people? If you're a guy you've seen one since you were born and if you're a girl and go to ECU you'll see plenty of them before you leave.
    • reply
      by Petey Pirate on Jan 14, 2012 at 05:58 PM in reply to
      I dont know what they call the Pulitzer equivalent for internet media, but that was pretty funny right there, I hereby nominate you for the award.
  • by Dave Location: Wilson on Jan 10, 2012 at 01:03 PM
    He admitted he fully supported an illegal act. Why is this a issue? He should have been arrested not just fired.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 10, 2012 at 02:47 PM in reply to Dave
      It was not an illegal act. Where do you get your information from?
      • reply
        by Steve on Jan 10, 2012 at 06:30 PM in reply to
        Publishing nudity in a publication for public consumption with no control for minors is in fact illegal.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 10, 2012 at 11:55 AM
    Here is a link from the FIRE group that challenges the firing. http://static.mgnetwork.com/nct/media_path/documents/FIRE_Letter.pdf
WITN

275 E. Arlington Blvd. Greenville, NC 27858 252-439-7777
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 136736413 - witn.com/a?a=136736413
Gray Television, Inc.