CMA board issues censure of a west coast university

The College Media Advisers issues a censure of Western Oregon University for firing its newspaper adviser in the wake of a student report that publicized a computer security breach. See the press release amd the letter of censure (PDF).

Wickstrom’s firing followed the June 2007 Journal publication of a
story concerning a university computer security breach. A file
containing the names, Social Security numbers, grade point averages and
other sensitive information of former students was discovered by
student journalist Blair Loving in a public area of the university
computer system. He opened the file thinking it was information about
the College of Education.

Wickstrom’s contract was not renewed in August 2007 because university officials felt she mishandled a copy of the file.

The letter of censure, sent to WOU President John Minahan, raises
concerns about the way the university handled Wickstrom’s case. In
addition, CMA is concerned that the present academic and student
affairs environments are not conducive to healthy journalism and
student media programs at WOU.

Specific concerns raised in the letter of censure include the following:

  • The search by university officials of the student newspaper newsroom without notifying the students or the adviser.
  • The university blaming the newspaper staff and its adviser for exposing the security lapse on its computers.
  • The handling by university officials of the security investigation
    and Wickstrom’s case, both of which indicate a lack of understanding of
    the basic philosophy, principles and ethics that guide CMA advisers.