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Editorial: Unwarranted Minaret Eviction


UPDATE: University of Tampa administration cancels Minaret newsroom eviction

The Minaret student newspaper was evicted from its longtime newsroom this week with only a few days’ notice, in a move the administration had apparently been planning for some time without seeking input from the student journalists, their advisor, the school’s journalism program or the Student Media Committee.

Editors were informed another organization needed the larger space. The proposed new space for the student newsroom is roughly half the size.

Students were handed a couple dozen moving boxes and told to pack up five rooms’ worth of offices — including a newly reconfigured multimedia room with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment — during the most hectic time of the school year.

The move goes against the wishes of the family of the late Kathryn Hill Turner, a UT donor who specifically earmarked the Minaret’s current space to be its permanent newsroom.

On Monday, April 20, The Minaret was informed by Dean of Students Stephanie Russell-Krebs of a dislocation of our newsroom, haphazardly uprooting our publication without any input by the editorial staff.

The incoming Editor in Chief, Griffin Guinta, incoming Editorial Director Katherine Lavacca, and current faculty advisor Tiffini Theisen were invited to a meeting with Krebs and Tim Harding, associate dean of career development and engagement, about relocating The Minaret. Our advisor, who was never informed of the move and wasn’t asked for input in advance, was teaching class during the meeting time and could not attend, but our incoming advisor, John Capouya, was able to do so.

At Monday’s meeting, we were informed we would be moving into an office “not substantially smaller”and that facilities would help set up the new space. After the meeting we visited the proposed new space, Vaughn 210, to discover we had been deceived. The new office is much smaller than our current space. We were not given any concrete dimensions so we measured for ourselves, coming up with approximately 300 square feet after double-checking our calculations. Once we provided this number to Dean Krebs, she said the blueprints listed the new office at approximately 412 square feet, while The Minaret’s current newsroom occupies 770.

This is about a 46percent decrease in space. Not only are we expected to cram an editorial staff of 18, eight Apple desktops, and over $3,921 worth of multimedia equipment into half the space, but we are expected to pack all of this ourselves the during the last week of classes and final exams.

Nearly all of our editors are in office on Monday and Tuesday nights until early morning putting together the layout of our newspaper. The Minaret staff has expanded drastically over the past few years to include multimedia journalists and graphic designers who are also present. The space we currently have barely accommodates the existing staff and in order to compete with other top-tier collegiate publications we are constantly adding more positions. The smaller offices would not be able to sustain the existing staff as it stands now and will be forced to eliminate the multimedia studio. This hinders not only the growth of the publication, but also the education of future journalists in a media centric workforce.

In an effort to protect our newsroom and combat the unannounced, ill-timed eviction, we reached out to the son of the late Kathryn Hill Turner, the woman who donated the office we currently occupy. J. Hill Turner immediately opposed the move and wrote an email to Dean Krebs stating: “Many years ago my late mother Kathryn Hill Turner worked tirelessly as an advocate of the Minaret and as a volunteer of The Chiselers to establish that very office that is now on the block to be repurposed.  My mother understood the importance of the student paper and their need for a permanent place they could call their own for publishing the student paper.”

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., wrote an email to The Minaret in response to our specific case.

“When a newspaper is secretly moved to a less-suitable space without notice, it’s rarely for innocent motives,” LoMonte said. “We call on President Vaughn and the trustees to immediately halt this suspicious activity and bring in an independent investigator to determine whether wrongdoing has occurred. … If a donor’s intentions are being undermined, and especially if they are being undermined for retaliatory reasons, the university may be in breach of contractual obligations and liable to the donor’s estate.”

Several UT alums who worked on the student newspaper during their time here have spoken out against the eviction.

“I was quite upset to hear of the university’s decision to evict The Minaret from its home of more than 10 years and then to offer a smaller space as a replacement,” said UT alum John Phifer, a former Minaret staffer. “The current office was designated for The Minaret when the Vaughn Center was built in the early 2000s. There were times during my tenure on staff when the space we had got crowded, especially on deadline night, so I can’t imagine having even less space.”

Another UT alum and former Minaret news editor called the eviction “heartbreaking.”

“I am appalled that the administration has chosen to evict the Minaret from its traditional offices without advance notice and without input from students or the appropriate professors, program leaders or committees,” said Joshua Kratovil, a 2009 graduate. “This goes beyond reprehensible — it’s downright cowardly, and smacks of a decision that the administration doesn’t want to defend in the open.”

As a staff we are shocked and greatly disappointed in the unprofessional manner our “move” was conducted. We work tirelessly to provide students with quality news and opportunities to pursue journalistic studies. This publication has been in production since 1933, only two years after the school’s inception and is possibly one of the original student organizations on this campus. As students of the University of Tampa we feel slighted by the administration that is supposed to have our best interests in mind. There are many ways we could all have worked together to establish a relocation plan.

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