The changing social mores of the early 1970s challenged the old-school journalism professors who had advised the student newspaper. The university’s Board of Publications stepped up its oversight of The Traveler during the 1970s and forced out two editors in as many years, firing one and forcing the resignation of the other.
The board fired Doug Wallace on grounds of “insubordination, incompetence and failure to perform assigned duties.” Wallace was accused of not following a board directive to fire two staff members who had either not maintained full-time status or had let their grade-point averages slip. Wallace defended his handling of the directive, arguing that it had come in November of the school year and he only allowed the two students to serve through the end of the semester.
David Russell, the associate editor, was appointed editor for the rest of the school year. Wallace persuaded the Southwestern Journalism Congress to pass a resolution of opposition to the firing, but Ernie Deane, a member of the Publications Board, advised the board to ignore the resolution:
Those of us sitting as members of the board, having heard repeated complaints from university students as to inaccuracies, malicious reporting, double-talk by editor Wallace, and unkept promises by the editor cannot agree at all that these were, “questionable reasons” for the Board’s action. ... The firing of an incompetent, insubordinant [sic] editor for cause is in no sense real or implied “prior restraint.”
The next year, the board once again threatened to fire Dave Baer, the editor of The Traveler, this time over questions of editorial content regarding the use of “obscene” words. A column called “Stoned” by writer Jack Stone and other articles had chafed several members of the Board of Publications. One said she was embarrassed and offended: “I would like to see a nice, no not nice, but a good newspaper. ... I’m not a professional journalist, but this has come up before, and I wouldn’t want this coming into my home.”
Marilyn Mosley, the chairwoman of the Board of Publications, told Baer: “I’m not threatening you, Dave, but if we don’t like what the editor’s doing, we’ll fire him; I’m not using this as a threat, I’m just telling you.” Deane criticized the “Stoned” column and then told the editor, Dave Baer, that The Traveler was subsidized by the university and that he had needed to consider his whole responsibility: “You are being judged by city people, and professional journalists who think your paper stinks!” Baer replied that Deane was no longer critiquing the newspaper but rather was attacking him personally: “As long as I run this paper, Jack Stone will continue to write his column and if a ‘pot smoker’ story comes up again, we’ll print it.”
At least one member of the board sided with Baer. Dr. Walter Brown said he would not participate in “this kind of thing” and asked rhetorically: “Are you going to make this into a good Jesus Christ newspaper?”
Members of the Board of Publications appeared to be unclear about their responsibilities and allegiances regarding the student publications. Although established by the student government, the board’s membership was mostly made up of members of the faculty. As with many bureaucratic inventions of the Student Senate, oversight of the Board of Publications could wane or disappear entirely as new student senators with little institutional memory were elected each year.
As a result, the board members themselves could become confused about their role. The board voted the next month to make itself answerable to the president of the university rather than to the Student Senate.
Deane, apparently because of the enmity created among journalism faculty, students and Traveler staff members, asked that the board eliminate a requirement that a member of the journalism faculty serve on the board and replace that position with a third representative of the general faculty.
Baer submitted a resignation to the board at its next monthly meeting, and the board agreed to eliminate its role in reviewing copy of The Traveler prior to publication.