July 01, 2006

UIW to reinstate library's subscription to the New York Times

Jun 29
Incarnate Word cancels NY Times subscription over story

The Dean of Library Services at University of the Incarnate Word canceled the library's subscription to the New York Times Wednesday to protest recent stories exposing a secret government program that monitors international financial transactions in the hunt for terrorists.

"Since no one elected the New York Times to determine national security policy, the only action I know to register protest for their irresponsible action (treason?) is to withdraw support of their operations by canceling our subscription as many others are doing," Mendell D. Morgan, Jr. wrote in a June 28 email to library staff. "If enough do, perhaps they will get the point."

Morgan did not return a call for comment this morning. The university released a statement saying that Morgan had the authority to remove the newspaper.

"The University of the Incarnate Word does not take an official position on the recent decision to cancel the subscription of the New York Times at the university's library" the statement said. " This decision was made by the administrator in charge of the library whose authority extends to the contents of the library, and thus it was within his purview to make this decision. The University is supportive of the First Amendment, a free press and of the presentation of diverse points of view."

The move outraged library staff, who complained the dean was censoring information based on personal beliefs.

Staff member Jennifer Romo said she and her coworkers were shocked when they received Morgan's email.

"The censorship is just unspeakable," Romo said. "There is no reason, no matter what your beliefs, to deny a source of information to students." President Bush and administration officials have lashed out at the media since last week, when the New York Times, followed by the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times published stories exposing a classified program to track terrorist financing by tapping international banking records.

They have aimed most of their criticism at the New York Times, which broke the story.

At a speech in Nebraska, Vice President Dick Cheney singled out the newspaper. In a letter to the New York Times posted on the Treasury Department's Web site, outgoing Secretary John W. Snow said the stories were "irresponsible and harmful to the security of Americans and freedom-loving people worldwide." He, too, singled out the newspaper saying it, "alerted terrorists to the methods and sources used to track their money trails."

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter released Monday that the attorney general should investigate the New York Times for possible violation of the Espionage Act.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is debating a resolution condemning leakers and the press for compromising national security. The New York Times reported Tuesday that its managing editor, Bill Keller, said in an e-mail statement that the decision to publish the story was, "a hard call." He noted that the Bush administration has launched a number of "broad, secret programs" aimed at fighting terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He went on to say: "I think it would be arrogant for us to pre-empt the work of Congress and the courts by deciding these programs are perfectly legal and abuse-proof, based entirely on the word of the government."

UIW library boss cancels the N.Y. Times in protest


Jun 30
NEW: UIW to reinstate library's subscription to the New York Times

The University of the Incarnate Word announced Friday that it will reinstate the library's print subscription to the New York Times after cancelling it earlier this week to protest the publication of stories exposing the government's secret anti-terrorism program to monitor international banking transactions.

Dean of Library Services Mendell D. Morgan, Jr., who gave the order to remove the newspaper, said in a hastily-called press conference that he did not believe his decision to use the university library as a forum for personal protest was inappropriate, but did regret failing to consult library staffers.

“In retrospect, I made a personal decision perhaps in too great haste and did not seek other input,” Morgan said, speaking in front of the university’s library. “I wanted to send a message in protest.”

Morgan emailed library staffers Wednesday announcing his decision to remove the newspaper and cancel the library’s subscription. Library staffers protested, calling the decision censorship, and the subsequent publicity garnered national attention.

On Friday, Morgan stressed that the New York Times is still available online and in several of the library's electronic databases. He said he may again cancel the print subscription, but not before engaging the university community in a discussion about the topic and reaching consensus.

“I do abhor censorship and its implications,” he said.

The New York Times broke the news of the government program, followed by other newspapers. The Bush administration and conservative bloggers and commentators blasted the reports, lashing out at media, especially the Times, characterizing the newspaper as having endangered national security.

But those who opposed Morgan’s decision to remove the Times, including library staffers Jennifer Romo and Tom Rice, argued that it was wrong to deny students access to the newspaper because of a personal disagreement with its coverage. Romo and Rice criticized the action publicly.

Morgan said he wished the staffers had voiced their concerns to him before going to the media, but said they would not be punished for their actions.

Though the campus was nearly empty Friday, two students who stumbled on the press conference said they strongly disagreed with the cancellation.

“What disturbed me is that Morgan didn't seem to realize there was anything wrong with his decision,” said Joan Braune, a recent graduate and president of the campus chapter of Amnesty International. “Our tuition and fees pay for his salary and library services and he decided to speak in our name without any input.”

Morgan said that supportive emails he has received from from citizens, campus workers and other library staffers have reinforced his view that the cancellation itself was appropriate. He said he was changing his mind only because he regretted not conferring with colleagues first.

Sister Helena Monahan, who sits on the university's board of trustees, said she disagreed with the Morgan’s decision to cancel the subscription, but respected his right to make it. Though trustees will likely trade opinions, they will not get involved in administrators' handling of the issue, she said.

Monahan is the congregational coordinator for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the religious order that founded the university.

Morgan has directed the library for 31 years and “has always acted responsibly,” she said. “He is tremendously respected.”

Monahan also said the library staffers who spoke out against the decision acted appropriately and should not be fired or censured.

“I think this kind of thing, while difficult, is a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved,” Monahan said. “If the faculty pick up on this topic and discuss it in classes, to me that is valuable.”


Blogger Candy Minx said...

This is shocking and hard to believe. But it seems to have backfired and brought even more attention to the articles in NYT's.

Sunday, July 02, 2006  

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