Authority issues

The column on the left of page three is what we call it the staff box. But this week, it’s just plain trouble. It doesn’t look any different, and that’s the problem. This standard staff box could get me brought up on student conduct charges. And if that happens, I could sue FAU.

It all started back on May 18. That’s when FAU fired the UP’s adviser of 12 years, Michael Koretzky. He’s a journalist with 20 years of experience, but Student Affairs had unilaterally decided they were over him. They cited a reorganization of student media and kicked him to the curb with three days’ notice.

Since then, Koretzky has kindly agreed to stick around as a volunteer.

“I’ll continue to help you publish the cutting-edge journalism that has won this paper awards and its staff jobs,” he announced on May 21, his last official day. “I just won’t get paid for it.”

The administrators present for that announcement didn’t smile or warmly accept this free offer, despite the economic downturn.

Still, they didn’t seem to mind as long as we filed paperwork for every UP meeting at which we wanted Koretzky to speak.

“If that’s the capacity they would like him as, a speaker, I don’t have a problem with it,” FAU Student Media Director Marti Harvey told the Sun Sentinel on May 28. “They’re doing the paperwork, so everything’s fine.”

But on May 30, I announced on my new blog, Owl Management, that I wasn’t going to do said paperwork anymore. I thought FAU was hiding behind paperwork and making the rules up as they went along. After all, none of my predecessors had to do paperwork for speakers (visit my blog to read their responses).

After that, FAU changed the rules on me. Harvey told me on June 2 that, per FAU policy, advisers must be employees. By asking Koretzky to serve as a volunteer adviser, I was therefore defying policy — which is code for risking conduct charges — and “going outside [my] scope of authority,” she claimed.

But attorney Adam Goldstein of the Student Press Law Center said that’s “bullshit.”

“What authority do you need to accept volunteer help?” he asked me, laughing. “If you’re choking on the street and somebody wants to give you the Heimlich, are you going to stop them because you don’t have the authority to grant them volunteer EMT status?”

So, then I went back to Harvey for clarification. She explained exactly what FAU’s legal department told her to tell me: FAU attorney Audra Lazarus “said you cannot meet with him on campus or off campus for the purpose of advising.”

Goldstein said this mandate is illegal.

“That’s a flat-out freedom of association violation,” he explained. “He’s not a leader of a terrorist cell. You can’t just say, ‘You can’t talk to people.'”
So, now you know the story of why this week’s staff box just might get me brought up on conduct charges and win me a chance to sue FAU — all for daring to insist that students continue to benefit from a professional journalist willing to volunteer his time.

That’s why I’m hereby calling FAU’s bluff. If they really don’t want me to label Koretzky an adviser in the staff box or associate with him for educational purposes, they’ll have to submit their orders to me in writing.

Keeping the grown-ups in line

Owl Management is the UP’s newest blog. It attempts to keep FAU administrators honest by bringing transparency to them. In other words, Owl Management reports the words and actions of misbehaving administrators that FAU doesn’t want you to know about.