After reaching out to 136 CCCU schools, the Student Press Coalition collected survey data from 49 private Christian universities that have student-run newspapers. We received two surveys from the two co-editors of Taylor University’s student publication, resulting in 50 total survey responses.
We found that 70% of schools with student-run publications have advisers in place who can control what stories are printed. Nearly 20% of publication policies say the student publication exists wholly or partially as university public relations. About half of student editors believe it is fair to deem these or other policies their school holds as “censorship.”
At least 84% of CCCU publications are university-owned and university-funded. Partially because of this, many university personnel (advisers or other university employees) have the ability to supervise publication staff activity, control published content, supervise finances and/or manage the tip line; yet only 56% of advisers have experience in mainstream news, according to their university publication’s student editors. However, there is promising news: 88% of respondents said their advisors support journalists, even if the administration is upset.
On a scale of 1–5, with one being “not at all” and five being “absolutely,” less than one-fourth of student editors chose five, rating that their private university absolutely gives them the same freedom of press that public universities give their students. Many student editors have felt pressured to change, edit or remove an article completely after it’s been published in print or online. Forty-eight percent of student editors have been asked or know of an instance at their school where a student has been asked by university personnel to stop pursuing an article.
This censored news culture could be a contributing factor to student journalists feeling morally uncomfortable writing articles about certain topics, specifically ones that might put institutions or individuals in a negative light. Using the 1–5 rating system, with one being “not at all” and five being “immensely, ” 20% chose five, rating that the Christian culture at their school immensely affects which stories their publication chooses to cover. More than one-fourth of editors don’t pursue stories because they are loyal to their university and don’t want to make it look bad.
With the same rating system, with one being “not prepared at all” and five being “very prepared,” we found that only 32% of student editors feel very prepared to be a journalist. Even less (26.5%) feel very prepared to work at a mainstream media publication or news outlet. Despite some of our findings on CCCU journalism education, 20.4% feel very prepared for PR or marketing fields, nearly as much as the previously mentioned areas.
While we received a high response rate for this survey from CCCU schools, we would love to see future research done to continue the conversation surrounding censorship in private universities.
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