Michigan Michigan Daily
November 20, 1965
"Student Editors Causes Stir at MSU"
by Roger Rapopodt
"The function of the University is to be a center for debate; for dissent and even dispute. The University campus must be a place for freedom of thought action."
--Warren M. Huff, Chairman of the MSU Board of Trustees in the State News. Welcome Week edition, September, 1965.
East Lansing—The resignation of four free-thinking editors of the Michigan State News provoked debate, dissent and even dispute on this Rose Bowl-conscious campus yesterday.
More than 2,500 curious students and faculty members purchased copies of yesterday’s Daily sold by a campus political group to read the story of the resignations that left editor-in-chief Charles Wells the sole remaining member of the newspaper’s editorial board. The editors resigned Thursday.
Wells explained that the State News did not print the story in yesterday’s News because, "I’ve decided to wait until Monday to print the story where it belongs on the editorial page."
The controversy began last week when Wells agreed with his editorial board, consisting of Managing Editor Richard Schwartz, Campus Editor Jim Sterba, Editorial Director Linda Rockey and Sports Editor Larry Mogg to print charges and countercharges by MSU and Paul Schiff, who was denied readmission to MSU this fall because of his political activities.
Wells said yesterday, however, that News General Manager Louis Berman, a faculty member who retains ultimate control over what is printed in the News, convinced him not to run the story.
The two statements list the university’s reasons for denying Schiff’s readmission and the graduate student’s reply to the charges. The MSU Faculty Committee on Student Affairs which is deliberating the case is now considering both statements.
According to Sterba, Berman told the editorial board on Wednesday that it was a good thing Wells decided not to run the story because if he had wanted to print the piece he (Berman) would have stopped it.
Berman confirmed this in an interview yesterday saying, "It was fortunate Wells made up his mind the way he did because if he hadn’t, I would have had to do something I detest doing: stop them from printing the story."
Berman convinced Wells that he should not print the story until after the faculty hearings were completed because he "did not want to influence the outcome of the hearings in any way."
The other four editors refused to accept the decision and when a compromise attempt failed, they resigned at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Berman made it plain that his decision was not an attempt to deprive Schiff of a right to have his views aired. "My personal opinion, said Berman, "is that I’d like to see Schiff thrown off campus. But I wouldn’t lift a finger to try to do anything to hurt him."
Both Berman and Wells are agreed to printing the statements on the editorial page after the hearings are completed and a decision has been reached.
According to Berman, the crux of the issue is "whether or not the editorial board can overrule the editor." Berman points out that the advisor retains ultimate authority over what goes in the paper and that the other four editors were "strickly in an advisory capacity to the editor."
Wells, who has filled the positions of four resigning editors with two sophomores and two juniors said, "I don’t feel bad about the resignations." Referring to Berman’s role on the paper Well said, "He’s a big help. I use his judgment quite often but I don’t feel I’m being consored."
However Sterba disagrees. "I’d like to see the advisor be an advisor, not a person with ultimate authority over everything that goes in the paper."
Wells, who received the resignation of three or more senior staff members yesterday including the paper’s culture editor, said that he referred to a number of parties before making his decisions. He consulted U.S. District Court Justice Noel P. Fox who has heard the Schiff case and members of the Faculty Committee on Student Affairs. Wells said they told him to use his own judgment.
While Wells consulted with the judge and faculty members, Sterba and two of the other resigning staffers discussed the issue with MSU president John Hannah Wednesday night. According to Sterba, Hannah said he had no objection to printing the story, although he would prefer the students to wait. He added that if the editors thought they were right, they should go ahead and print it.
Hannah refused to talk to reporters yesterday.
Vice-President for Student Affairs John Fuzak, a co-defendant with Hannah in Schiff’s pending civil rights suit against the university, upheld Berman’s stand in the matter, saying he was "a little surprised they (the editors) ran out." Fuzak said he thought the resigning editors "were just deliberately trying to milk all the publicity possible from the situation."
The university community reacted to the report of the editors resignation in The Daily with an air of complete surprise.
Members of the Committee for Student Rights did a flourishing business selling copies of The Daily to everyone from President Hannah’s secretary to coeds in the lunchline at Brodie Hall. On two occasions campus police halted the sale of The Daily by threatening to arrest students for selling the paper without a permit.
Observant readers noticed that the News, which did not run a story on the resignation did print the names of the new editors in the masthead.
But nonetheless the intrigued student body seemed to take the news in stride.
"The only thing that would create an uprising of individual awareness at this university would be a decision by the Board of Trustees not to go to the Rose Bowl," observed one CRS leader.