The Student Press Coalition promotes a free press in higher education through research and advocacy on issues related to media censorship in Christian colleges and universities.
Who We Are
We are a group of dedicated student journalists and peers who attend Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. Although we’re currently Taylor students, the SPC is not affiliated with the university. Our ideas and research do not necessarily reflect the university’s views, nor its mission. We’re comprised of five journalism majors, one history major and one graphic design major.
Disclosure: One member of the research team is an employee at Taylor’s student newspaper, The Echo, but was not a respondent in this survey. Three researchers were former paid employees at The Echo and an additional researcher was an unpaid contributor, none of whom were respondents to this survey.
What We Do
We are advocates for the free press. We conducted informal research on censorship and the free press policies and practices at 136 schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Our study is not a formal, professor-guided study. We didn’t use double-blind questions, nor did we have an official hypothesis stated before conducting our research. We took participants at their word. Throughout the process, we talked to three professional journalists to get their advice on ethics and our methods.
We are specifically interested in press issues within Christian higher education because our school, Taylor University, is associated with the Council for Christian Colleges & University (CCCU), an association of more than 180 Christian institutions around the world. To conduct our research, we contacted 136 CCCU schools, attempting to reach their top student publication editors. Out of the 136 CCCU schools contacted, 64% did not participate in the survey (33.1% of the 64% never replied to our contact).
A section of the schools contacted confirmed they do not have a student newspaper (21.3%); and a separate group (9.6%) confirmed that they have a student newspaper, but they didn’t participate in the survey. The last group (36%) was comprised of schools with student newspapers that did participate in the survey. Included in the 36% of schools with a newspaper who participated in the survey (49 schools), two editors from Taylor University publication responded, making the 50 the total number of respondents.
We chose these schools because they are CCCU schools in the United States. We emailed every school, once initially, asking for the editor of their student publication’s contact information. If schools didn’t respond to our emails the first time, we sent at least one or two more emails (or tweets or LinkedIn messages) to school officials or student editors as a follow-up before labeling them “unresponsive.”
Our survey was sent on a Google form and consisted of a range of questions, from basic identifying information to the role and power of the student newspaper adviser. We also inquired about the school’s policies regarding censorship and freedom of the press, along with internal pressure regarding sensitive topics. Additionally, we asked which kinds of journalism classes were offered at their institution. However, because several respondents expressed uncertainty about their knowledge of journalism courses offered at their university (some editors were English majors, for example, and did not take such classes), we did not report those findings here.
View a pdf of the original survey here.
Our Definition of Censorship
We recognize that the term “censorship,” is difficult to pinpoint. We found this article helpful in determining what qualifies as censorship and in what context:
Here is a concise definition from a journalism professor:
“Censorship: the cyclical suppression, banning, expurgation, or editing by an individual, institution, group or government that enforce or influence its decision against members of the public – of any written or pictorial materials which that individual, institution, group or government deems obscene and ‘utterly’ without redeeming social value, as determined by ‘contemporary community standards.’” — Chuck Stone, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina