Let's Talk About Sex

National Affairs: A face-off between Towson University President and the campus newspaper over its sex column demonstrates the vulnerable nature and essential importance of independent student journalism.

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An independent college press holds certain intrinsic values, especially the guarantee of unbiased coverage of serious and contentious issues, free of the meddling of university administrators or other powerful interests.

Last month, the President of Towson University was so riled by the risque content in the campus newspaper's sex column that he threatened to remove campus advertising, which accounts for 40 percent of ad revenue. Facing dire financial consequences, the column was discontinued and the editor in chief resigned.

A Sept. 14 column offering advice on blow jobs, hand jobs and rim jobs elicited the opposition of University President Robert L. Caret, who alleged that the column belonged in "the type of sleazy magazines one finds sectored off in drugstores." Though the column was not executed well, there was an educational purpose behind its vulgarity. College students engage in these sexual acts, and discussing them openly is better than not discussing them at all.

In an e-mail exchange with Towerlight Editor-in-Chief Carrie Wood, Caret hinted that he might pull the university's advertising from the paper. Wood resigned on Oct. 2, and the paper ceased publishing "The Bed Post" in its print edition.

Though the pressure on Wood must have been great, her decision to resign was a mistake. The Towerlight just achieved its independence last year, after a similar stand-off with Caret. Her resignation, and the column's discontinuation, demonstrate that the Towerlight, though nominally independent, won't stand up to the administration in defense of its content.

But more than Wood, Caret is clearly in the wrong. He, like any reader, has the right to express opposition to content. However, rather than starting a personal e-mail exchange with the editor, Caret should have held an open dialogue with editors to discuss the situation.

Most importantly, Caret ought to respect and value the independence of the Towerlight, even if he disagrees with its content. The newspaper is for the students, not the university president, and it's unfair for him to attempt to impose his personal tastes and preference on an independent media outlet.

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