The central Ohio chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists awarded the “Brick Wall Award” to the Ohio Wesleyan faculty on Wednesday at a Columbus barn.
The award was presented at the 67th annual Founder’s Day banquet of the chapter held at Amelita Mirolo Barn in Upper Arlington.
According to SPJ’s website, the award started in 2001. “It is a dubious distinction presented to individuals or organizations that, according to chapter members, did the most to block citizen access to public records and proceedings or otherwise violated the spirit of the First Amendment during the past year.” It is awarded under the Chapter Awards category.
On Monday, April 18, OWU faculty voted 47-21 to ban reporters, including The Transcript, the university’s independent student newspaper, from covering future faculty meetings. This was unprecedented after more than 35 years of faculty meetings being open to students.
Paul Kostyu, associate professor of journalism and the department chair, was present at the award ceremony. “I accept this [award] on behalf of the 21 [faculty] who withstood the pressure to keep meetings open.”
Cole Hatcher, director of media and community relations at OWU, said, “I understand the award, but it is important to remember that it is a private faculty meeting and [faculty] have the right to close them, even if it is not a popular decision.”
Kevin Smith, a member of the chapter’s board of directors, who was also present at the ceremony said: “It’s really unfortunate. … [Faculty at OWU] shouldn’t be ashamed of what they’re talking about. They’re being too thin-skinned and protective. … SPJ is going to do what it can to help fight that.”
Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate at the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., said in an interview before the faculty meeting on April 18 that if the motion was approved, humiliation is the best weapon for The Transcript.
Areena Arora is managing editor of The Transcript, the Ohio Wesleyan University student newspaper.