In the fall of 2016, The Redlands Bulldog proposed a charter to the Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) cabinet as the official student news publication of the University of Redlands.
In December of 2014, funding for the university’s previous publication, the Bulldog Weekly, was pulled and the publication was put on hiatus due to a controversial article, among other reasons. After a period of hiatus, the university’s newspaper returned as the Redlands Bulldog, and after a year of establishing itself as a credible publication, Editor-in-Chief of the Redlands Bulldog Willow Higgins and reporter Livvy Fore, along with members of the late Bulldog Weekly Sarah McGrew, Ben Purper and Katie Trojano set out to compose a charter that would would ensure both the freedom of speech and funding of the school’s newest official publication.
Modeled after successful charters of other student newspapers, the seventeen page document begins by promising that the Redlands Bulldog will be “accurate and objective,” as well as responsible for the “the content and quality” of its reporting. The document also outlines the publication’s governing and editorial page policies, a charter for a board of advisors, organizational structure, and a code of ethics.
A year-long project of drafting and proposing, the charter’s main goal was to secure funding for the paper as a legitimate student publication while ensuring the freedom of speech of its staff. The authors of the charter designed it to hold the Bulldog to high journalistic standards while providing a learning environment for any student interested in writing for a newspaper. As the university does not currently have a journalism academic department, one of the Redlands Bulldog’s primary functions is to provide a place for U of R students to develop journalism skills.
After a semester of meetings with ASUR judicial chair, Donald Hall and ASUR supervisors, the charter was reviewed by the Senate on Nov. 7. Higgins and Trojano represented The Redlands Bulldog in presenting the charter for Senate approval. After reviewing the document, the senators posed several questions, mostly concerning liability. The main in which was, in the event of a lawsuit on the basis of libel would ASUR be held responsible? Their questions led to a discourse that resulted in the tabling of the topic for the Senate’s next meeting.
In the second convening, Higgins addressed the Senate’s question after consulting Brent Geraty, the university’s general counsel. It was clarified that in the event of a lawsuit, an individual could sue all parties involved with the publication, but who is ultimately found liable would be decided within the lawsuit, depending on the circumstance. However, the first amendment rights of student journalists are well protected, and the best protection for journalist is to report with integrity. The charter, in response, makes a clear commitment to “fairness, quality and journalistic integrity,” supported by practices such as a multi-step editing process by several editors, and meetings with experienced journalist and Redlands Bulldog advisor George Watson.
After all grievances were assuaged, the senate held a vote, and as of last night, the charter was passed and officially absorbed into the ASUR constitution.