THERE'S A TEMPEST brewing at the University of Maryland's main campus in College Park that the editors and the staff of the school's student-run daily newspaper say poses a threat to the editorial freedom of the campus's five student publications. Their distaste for the "unreasonable restrictions" imposed last week by their governing board led them to cease for the time being regular publication of The Diamondback as an act of protest. We think the issue is a great deal less cosmic than freedom of the press and one on which the board has acted correctly.
The Diamondback staff claims the board, set up six years ago to shield the publications from the threat of censorship, has itself become a threat to the paper's independence. Their proof? The decision of the board, which includes five students, to require that the top editors of the publications be full-time students. We fail to discern in that ruling an infringement on editorial freedom.
he board' decision followed disclosure that the Diamondback editor-in-chief had not registered for classes this fall and thus wasn't a student. To his credit the young man acknowledges that his not being a student is "a bad situation for the paper" and says he's prepared to resign. But he and his colleagues claim a larger issue: The board's ruling discriminates against part-time students. They argue that part-time students - those who take fewer than three courses per semester - have as much right as full-time students to serve in the publications' top positions.
The logic of the students' view, it seems to us, is skewed. There are, of course, valid reasons why some students choose to take less than the full complement of courses. And we see no reason why these students should be barred from most extracurricular activities, including membership on the school newspaper. But it hardly follows that these students have a right to assume such a demanding extracurricular task as editor while at the same time reducing their academic courseload. We find it hard to believe that a student talented enough to have become an editor would find the work of three courses a semester overwhelming. Indeed, learning to juggle competing demands for one's time is part of the college experience. But, more to the point, we believe that a student's primary duty should be his schoolwork. The Diamond back staff has got it wrong.This isn't a matter of student rights, but of student responsibilities.