Edison State College putting gag order on faculty?

Matt Grant

Edison State College putting gag order on faculty?

By Matt Grant. CREATED Jun 29, 2012 - UPDATED: Jun 29, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. - In order to get "positive media exposure," Edison State College's interim president is telling faculty not to talk to the media.

A memo obtained by Fox 4 appears to show that the college wants to control any messages sent to the media, which some faculty have called an attack on free speech.

"I think that's disturbing," said an Edison professor who requested to stay anonymous out of fear of retribution for speaking out. "I'm mostly concerned that the First Amendment rights are trying to be trumped by college operating procedure."

Off camera, some faculty feel like they're under a gag order and say the college is trying to stop them from voicing concerns at a taxpayer-funded school.

In the memo obtained by Fox 4, interim president Dudley Goodlette tells faculty that they "anticipate strong media coverage in the next year." 

Because of that, Goodlette directs faculty to the college's media policy which states, in part: "Any employee who receives an inquiry from a writer, reporter or other member of the media...should transfer the call to the director of communications and marketing."

In other words, call the college's public relations department.

In the email sent Thursday, Goodlette says this policy should "guide any and all contact with media."

"They're trying to eliminate the bad press," said the anonymous professor. "When faculty talk, they don't like some of the things that they're saying."

Fox 4 asked the college to explain the policy.

"When faculty and staff speak to the media in their capacity as college representatives," Goodlette said in a statement, "the communication [has to be] coordinated with the marketing department."

"Coordinating these efforts at a district level," Goodlette continued, "allows us to capitalize on positive media exposure."

We asked the college's spokesperson if faculty could be punished - and if so how - for speaking to the media without permission. We are still waiting for a response.

"I think they're tired of the bad publicity," said the anonymous professor. "And they're hoping if they have some control over what people say maybe those bad things won't be coming out."

Goodlette's email to faculty

For 50 years, Edison State College has successfully served Southwest Florida. While the last year has proven challenging, we look forward to the many opportunities to strengthen our institution over the next year. We are confident that Dr. Allbritten will bring the expertise and leadership Edison needs to emerge as an even stronger and more diverse organization.

It is important that all employees are working to support the mission and vision of the college during this time. Because of our commitment to the community and the vested interest our stakeholders have in Edison, we anticipate strong media coverage over the next year. We appreciate all that you do to share the numerous positive aspects of the college, and encourage you to continue serving as ambassadors on behalf of the college. Please be advised
that College Operating Procedures 02-0201 Soliciting Media Coverage and 02-0202 Media Inquiries should guide any and all contact with media and or public requests for responses on behalf of the College. Please contact Teresa Morgenstern for additional support in following the College Operating Procedures.

College's statement

I would like to provide further clarification of the announcement sent yesterday regarding media coverage. It is important that Edison State College's public communications be consistent across the organization and clearly articulates the institution's position. To attain this goal College Operating Policy 02-0202 requires that when faculty and staff speak to the media in their capacity as College representatives, that the communication be coordinated with appropriate staff in the marketing department. Furthermore, coordinating these efforts at a district level allows us to capitalize on positive media exposure.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com