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Student Paper Contretemps

An interesting freedom of the press spat is playing out on the Community College of Rhode Island campus. The following is via the Student Press Law Center:

RHODE ISLAND -- Student journalists at the Community College of Rhode Island are back in the newsroom for now after student government locked them out earlier this month.

David Gannon, chief executor of The Unfiltered Lens, said Student Government President Manna Muhuri offered to give the office space back in exchange for positive coverage.

"He said, 'if I leave you guys alone, will you leave me alone?'" according to Gannon.

Lens staff members on the Knight Campus found a note on their office door July 27 informing them that they needed to move out by Aug. 6. The same note was given to every student club, and indicated the offices would be cleaned and the locks changed, said Interim Editor in Chief Jim Brady. The locks were changed two days later, and neither the newspaper nor any other group was given any assurance about future use of the space.

The newspaper is one of the only student groups on campus needing regular office access during the summer months, Gannon said.

The lockout prompted a series of meetings and e-mail exchanges with Muhuri and the college's associate vice president for student services, Ron Schertz. Both Brady and Gannon said Muhuri privately offered to let the Lens staff keep its office if the paper would go easy on him.

"The quid pro quo was definitely there," Gannon said.

Muhuri denied making any kind of offer.

Schertz called the allegation "absurd," and said there was no evidence to support it.

"If I would ever hear of any such thing, I would have reacted to that very quickly," Schertz said. "Those kinds of allegations -- you know, even though people have said them, they can't produce any verification that it occurred."

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