Never let it be said that I will not admit it when I make a mistake.
For months, I have accepted the conventional wisdom that Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck is an enemy of the university's international mission and that he is doing everything he can to dismantle it.
As it turns out nothing could be further from the truth. Speck is demonstrating his appreciation of international customs in a most public way these days. Unfortunately, the aspects of foreign culture that MSSU's rich tenor voice has chosen to emphasize are taken from the bowels of Communist China and are more suited to the Stalin era in the Soviet Union.
After some minor pretense at getting along with everyone following the faculty's no confidence vote, Bully Boy Bruce is back in the saddle again, and his latest target is the First Amendment.
In the latest edition of the campus newspaper, The Chart, reporter Brennan Stebbins reveals that a new Speck edict forbids media from interviewing anyone without going through the university's public relations office:
Nearly two years after issuing a policy on media involvement with Missouri Southern officials, University President Bruce Speck has finally decided to enforce it.
Under the policy, which Speck originally issued in June 2008 to the all-campus community, any representatives from media organizations, including The Chart, must be referred to University Relations and Marketing when contacting campus employees and students.
"We certainly have no interest in impeding the flow of information to the media, but we do need to follow these interactions so we can be aware of the various stories being produced that impact the University and its reputation and do our part to provide appropriate campus security," Speck wrote in the memo announcing the policy.
Though Rod Surber of the p. r. office says the policy is not as sweeping as it sounds and that students can be interviewed without restrictions, it is obvious the policy is designed to give Speck the ability to crack down on anyone who dares take issue with his policies.
The revised approach to the media may have been telegraphed by new MSSU Board of Governors member Lynn Ewing of Nevada during his inaugural board meeting. Ewing's first statements at a board meeting were a lengthy diatribe against The Chart.
Thankfully, the intrepid young staff at The Chart refuses to bow down to Speck's intimidation attempt. From an editorial in the latest edition:
This is not a business, but an institution of higher learning, and a state-funded one at that. And now, tax dollars are going to support an administration that continues to pile up the sand bags and sit in the dark, doing its best to keep the outside world at bay.
Actions by the administration and the University's Board of Governors have indicated that they don't care for an active and inquisitive student press. We hope the new policy is not intended to restrict access - or worse - impose a chilling effect on free speech.
This paper will continue to ask questions and ask for documents. That is its job.
And if we suspect a violation of our First Amendment rights, we will report on it. And we will call the Student Press Law Center.
Speck has now come to a moment of truth. Will he realize or admit this mistake and lift the policy? Or will he continue slipping into the shadows and stripping this University of its integrity?
Of course, all will be well when Dwight Douglas' holy grail, the medical school (Southern's version of Atlantis) opens.
(Photo: Bruce Speck promises to get along better with faculty.)