The editor of the Howard University student newspaper, who has been embroiled in a controversy over the paper's coverage of a sex discrimination complaint against the school, has been told by university officials that she is no longer enrolled in school and therefore can no longer edit the newspaper.
Janice McKnight, a Howard senior and editor of The Hilltop since last April, told reporters last night that she "has been dismissed" from school. "It's clear this has occurred because of the position I took as editor of The Hilltop. . . .All I tried to do is stand up for truth and. . . .freedom of speech."
Alan Hermesch, a spokesman for the university, refused to comment on whether McKnight had been dismissed and would say only that she "is no longer enrolled as a student." He said "the basis for this action is separate from and not involved in her activities and position as editor-in-chief of The Hilltop."
The student paper has given prominent coverage to the case of Michael Harris, an attorney at the university who filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission and has since been fired from his job.
McKnight said that after the first story about Harris' complaint appeared in The Hilltop last fall, Howard President James Cheek asked her not to print anything more about it. But the paper has continued to give the case prominent coverage.
Last month, university trustees tightened administration controls on the paper, notifying The Hilltop that its editor would have to submit "potentially defamatory material" for review by attorneys for the university. The notice also authorizes a university vice president to stop publication of materials the lawyers say might be libelous.
Hermesch said the new rules were prompted by The Hilltop's coverage of the Harris case.
In a statement distributed by the university press office, the trustees said they had a "longstanding commitment. . . to the freedom and resposibility of the student press," but added that they needed to "protect. . . the university from lawsuits arising out of materials published in the newspaper."
John Clifford, an attorney retained by McKnight to represent her in the matter, said McKnight received a telegram from the school telling her that "she either withdraws on her own or will be expelled."
Hermesch said he could not comment about anything McKnight said she received from the university.