Tag Archives: freedom of the press

SLU v. Avis Meyer Case Settled

As of 4:15pm, both sides have settled in the SLU v. Avis Meyer case.

The details of the settlement have not yet been released.  SLU will be reimbursed for a portion of attorney’s fees, but the final amount has not been disclosed.  According to an audience member in court, the judge will “sign off” on the settled issues tomorrow morning.

This means that the legal battle is over and Dr. Avis Meyer was not found guilty of any of the seven charges set forth by Saint Louis University. (Update at 10pm on 3/2/09: https://saveavis.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/update-on-todays-settlement/)


Details on Court Date

According to Judge Carol Jackson’s office, public proceedings for the final charge in the Avis Meyer v. SLU case is set for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 2, at the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse — floor 14 North.

For directions and parking info, see http://www.moed.uscourts.gov/Locations/StLouis.html.

Thanks to Amy from the Save Avis Yahoo! Group for the information.

Final Charge to Be Decided March 2nd

The last charge against Dr. Meyer will be decided in federal court by Judge Carol Jackson – during an OPEN SESSION – on Monday, March 2, at 9:30 a.m. on the 8th or 9th floor of the Eagleton building. We will confirm details closer to the court date, so check back.

If you are interested in attending, please contact the Save Avis Yahoo! Group or leave a comment on the blog and we’ll get back to you with more information.

We’re expecting the  St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the STL Journalism Review and the U News to cover the story.

Did you know that the charge, that Meyer invoked the name of a benevolent society (the Jesuit order), is based on a 1932 law that hasn’t been enacted since the Depression?

Latest estimates reveal that SLU has amassed a $200,000-plus legal bill to fight Dr. Meyer over the past couple of years. The school is paying attorneys $375 an hour (plus extra charges for legal assistants) to fight this losing battle.

What a shame to spend donors and tuition dollars on such a debacle.

Special thanks to Amy for this additional information.

Shout Out to College Media Matters Blog

Special thanks to Dan Reimold at College Media Matters for providing an update on the Avis case and the latest Post-Dispatch article.

Please check out his article Judgment in St. Louis U. Lawsuit Against Student Paper Adviser.

Like us, Dan was particularly happy to see a smile on Avis’ face.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in this ongoing matter.

Latest news

They say that no news is good news…

After months of continuance requests from SLU, the judge in the case gave the university 30 days to decide whether the trial would be a bench trial (judge only) or go to jury. If SLU decided to go with the bench trial, the judge said they wanted to be finished with the matter before Christmas.

SLU did not respond with a decision to the judge within 30 days. This week we hear that the judge has postponed any ruling until January 2009.

So the latest word is that the case is still stuck in Larry limbo.

If you have any additional information or stories to share, be sure to let us know!

Provost Weixlmann responds to U News Editorial

Yet another letter from Provost Weixlmann, this time in response to the latest University News editorial supporting Dr. Meyer.

Read the full text from the U News site here.

Reprinted for your enjoyment:

This letter is written in response to last week’s editorial “News mentor banned in body, not spirit,” which would appear to support Dr. Avis Meyer’s unqualified right to do anything he might wish to do in the workplace.

This impression is created most strongly in an emotional paragraph that suffers, among other things, from slippery-slope “logic.” There, the authors begin by posing four exaggerated rhetorical questions designed to make it seem that the principled, and limited, restriction that has been placed on Dr. Meyer following review of his actions with the paper’s advisory board is outlandish. And these questions, in turn, lead the authors to conclude, self-righteously, that “the University community should be alarmed by this violation of academic freedom.”

This emotional outpouring ignores the fact that professional behavior, by its very nature, assumes the existence of reasonable behavioral boundaries; that the University has provided increased support to the student newspaper in recent years, including the creation of a full-time adviser position; that Dr. Meyer has not been the University-appointed adviser to the paper for the better part of a decade and that the decision to limit Dr. Meyer’s access to the student newsroom followed a process and is not predicated on the base motive the authors attribute to University administrators.

Moreover, those who understand the cornerstone principle of academic freedom should recognize that this decision in no way violates Dr. Meyer’s academic freedom.

Law professor Stanley Fish observes in Tuesday’s online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education that “the trouble with the term ‘academic freedom’ is that the emphasis almost always falls on the ‘freedom’ part rather than the ‘academic’ part, with the result that the concept is made to seem much grander than it is.”

The classic definition of the term was formulated in 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and contains three elements: (1) “teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties”; (2) “teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject” and, even then, there may exist “limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution” and (3) when faculty “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations” on them-including to “at all times be accurate,” to “exercise appropriate restraint” and to “show respect for the opinions of others.”

None of these three guarantees applies to a faculty member assuming an extracurricular role he or she has not been assigned to undertake-especially when the University has assigned the role to someone else!

Notice, too, that the freedoms outlined within the concept of “academic freedom” are limited as well as specific. Each of the AAUP provisions carefully balances rights against responsibilities, since that is what professional behavior demands. Dr. Fish aptly concludes his Chronicle article by noting that “invoking academic freedom carries with it the danger of thinking that we are doing something noble and even vaguely religious, when in fact what we are doing, or should be interested in doing, is no more – or less – than our academic jobs.”

Contrary to what the editorial’s authors would have readers believe, SLU administrators value and aggressively defend the academic freedom of our faculty members. But the University does not, and never will, affirm the misguided assumption that any behavior, especially behaviors which interfere with the ability of other faculty and staff to perform their assigned duties, is OK.

Finally, for those who have tried to make this a First Amendment issue, the publication of the “News mentor” editorial last week should again make it clear that the University has never attempted to control the editorial content of the student newspaper.

Joe Weixlmann, Ph.D.
University Provost

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything from the Provost. What do you think of his letter?

U News Staff Reacts to Meyer Ban

This past Wednesday was the first production night for the University News. As many of you already know, this was also the first night that Dr. Avis Meyer, former adviser, was physically barred from entering the U News offices.

So what happened?

The U News staffers did what they do best – they wrote.

And you can read their editorial on the U News web site.

In their own words:

We welcome Meyer to the newsroom. We value his wisdom and perspective. We relish his knowledge and connections. We enjoy his presence and camaraderie. We respect the time that he contributes and his editing skills. We are proud of his insight and fearlessness…

He is a valued member of our community. By banning him from the newsroom, administrators deprive student journalists of the knowledge and experience of one of the most skilled faculty members at SLU…

Meyer’s critiques of University policy, both positive and negative, are a necessary part of the journalistic process. Administrators only detract from sound thought when they seem to punish verbal dissent that ruffles well-laid plans.

Furthermore, this sets a disturbing precedent for SLU faculty who choose to involve themselves with undergraduate organizations. How much can faculty advisers say before they face a similar fate? How close can they get to student affairs? Must they stifle all dissent in order to interact with student groups? Will entering the newsroom put other faculty members in danger of punishment? The University community should be alarmed by this violation of academic freedom.

The administration might be able to keep Meyer from the newsroom while the paper is being produced, but they cannot keep his ever-present spirit from continuing to inspire us.

Dr. Meyer remains a friend and mentor to The University News-even if he is not allowed to be physically present when we assemble this clarion of free speech.