Student reporters at Loyola University and editorial staff at the school newspaper say they’re fighting an assault on free speech on campus.
Loyola’s student-run newspaper "The Phoenix" has reported on campus and community issues for decades fairly unhindered. But the editorial staff says the new administration is cracking down. An effort, they say, is underway to strangle student journalism and shield the school from unfavorable coverage.
An editorial published Wednesday in the paper calls out the university’s media policy. It's title: "Loyola’s Media Policy is Straight Out of the Trump Playbook."
Loyola senior and editor in chief of the Phoenix, Henry Redman says the school’s public relations wing has become increasingly antagonistic.
"It’s never been this bad before," Redman said. "We’ve never had to bang our head against the wall to get an inch of information from the school."
"They will ignore our questions," Remand continued. "They will flat out not respond to our emails, they’ll pivot away from them constantly."
Two years ago the university appointed Jo Ann Rooney president. She's the first woman and non-cleric to head the school. Since taking over some critics say she’s shied away from addressing crime and sexual violence on campus. Questions they say are now filtered heavily through the university’s public relations office.
“The campus safety department has given us no comment through the PR department," Redman said. "The Title IX office has refused to talk to us through the PR department.”
A recent attempt by a freshman reporter to contact professors directly for a story about women in STEM programs was met with admonishment from a university spokesperson who called the student’s methods "disrespectful and unacceptable."
“They don’t want anything that can be spun into bad press getting published," Redman said.
The university released a statement after NBC 5 requested comment Wednesday.
"We treat Loyola Phoenix reporters like any other journalists and work to fulfill their requests in a timely manner," the statement reads. "We agree with the student newspaper that we have a responsibility to tell the stories of the university and keep students, staff, and faculty informed, and the policy helps us do so efficiently and effectively."
For now, the editorial staff has begun a running list of questions they’ve asked that have gone unanswered.
“I think they would love if we were just an advertisement for the school," Redman said. "We aren’t the voice of the school, we’re the voice of the students."