The darkest day in my career as a student journalist was opening The Hoya to read an editorial praising the destruction of another publication (“You Wanted a Rise,” The Hoya, Oct. 16, 1998, p. 2).

Your recent editorial (“You Call This a Free Press?,” Oct. 19, 2004, A2) bucking against the journalistic constraints imposed on student editors by Georgetown’s Media Board washes that stain away and makes me proud to have been a former Hoya editor. The championing of free speech, particularly speech you disagree with, is essential to preserving intellectual life.

This is not the first time that Georgetown has threatened the free-speech rights of its student journalists. In 1989, The Hoya and Voice joined together to publish a single protest issue before halting their presses in response to a similar situation – university pressure to halt the publication of pro-choice speech advertising.

Similarly, in 1997, the Voice was bullied into withholding some details in a story about how Georgetown lobbies Capitol Hill – namely, how preferential treatment may have been given to some Georgetown applicants. In this last incident, Georgetown flatly refused to provide any legal assistance to the Voice if it were to be sued over the article. So much for supporting your student press.

These incidents have shown the university’s long-standing hostility to the speech freedoms of its student journalists. Georgetown cannot truly be a university without allowing for open debate in its classrooms, debate halls and newspapers. Georgetown is clearly not interested in doing so.

The university will continue to besmirch the meaning of intellectual freedom until it reverses its pigheaded policy to realize that publishing political advertising, be it pro-choice or pro-life, is not the same as providing services that the university’s Catholic fathers oppose.

Then again, Georgetown has had little interest in nurturing its student journalists, preferring to control student editors by fiat, through both Media Board control of newspaper budgets and the aforementioned free-speech confrontations.

The university offers few journalism classes, no class credit for student editors and meager stipends for only the top editors that only account for cents for each hour worked. Georgetown sees The Hoya not as a place to foster excellence in student speech and journalistic education, but as a cash cow whose ad sales fund the other activities under the auspices of the Media Board.

But, in light of last week’s incident, what is The Hoya to do? The paper could have chosen not to accept either ad, thus silently keeping the balance between opposing viewpoints. But in doing so, it would have destroyed the intellectual spirit of both its editors and of the university as a whole. A campus where controversial intellectual debates are taboo is not one worth spending $40,000 per year to attend.

Rather, The Hoya should see this incident as a call to embark on the dream that has eluded generations of past editors – independence.

As an undergraduate, I spent many nights in the confines of 421 Leavey with my fellow editors discussing what it would take for The Hoya to set up shop as a newspaper dedicated to Georgetown without being controlled by Georgetown. Alas, those plans were subsumed by the daily rigors of the newspaper office, and they remained only a dream.

The time has come for The Hoya to break its official ties to the campus so it can be free to fulfill its journalistic and intellectual goals untainted by the whims of university administrators. Let me know when you do – I will be the first to congratulate you.

James G. Di Liberto Jr. graduated from the College in 2000 and served as editor in chief of The Hoya in spring 1998.

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