Sister school newspaper returns amid mixed concerns

Even though Universidad de las Americas officials have returned the university newspaper to its students 16 days after shutting it down, not everyone is commending the administration.On Jan. 16, UDLA, TCU’s sister school in Puebla, Mexico, stopped publication of its newspaper, La Catarina, in what the administration told students was an effort to restructure the publication to better reflect the community service project it was intended to be.

Many students, faculty and alumni criticized the university’s decision, saying La Catarina was never intended to be a community service project and the newspaper was being punished for its recent criticism of UDLA Chancellor Pedro Palou.

Officials met Thursday with five members of La Catarina’s editorial board and announced the return of the publication to the students.

La Catarina Web Editor Said David said the university was pressured by media coverage to reverse its decision.

“Palou admitted that the way this so-called ‘restructuring’ of La Catarina was made wasn’t right,” David said, “and that all of this trouble could have been prevented if the authorities and the staff of La Catarina had kept an honest and open dialogue.”

While the UDLA administration did not respond to numerous e-mails, La Catarina staff members such as David and Astrid Viveros expressed satisfaction with the university’s decision to reopen the newspaper.

Viveros said officials promised the publication will be entirely student-run and the administration’s only involvement will be to help facilitate information-gathering and staff-recruiting.

Others, however, are less enthusiastic about the decision.

One professor, whose name was withheld for fear of retribution from the university, said he views the situation with cautious optimism.

He said his main concern is related to a press release addressed to the Skiff that was posted on UDLA’s Web site last week.

The press release questioned the Skiff’s accuracy in its coverage of La Catarina’s closure and called La Catarina “one-sided and discriminatory” with a “desire to denigrate UDLA.”

The professor acknowledged that Palou made an effort to re-establish La Catarina, but he cited the press release as a source of contradiction because the administration is re-employing the very people it criticized in the release.

“How is it possible that the same small group of students who supposedly caused so much damage to the university is going to be in charge of the newspaper again?” he said. “How can the same administration who sent police officers to the newsroom to shut it down say that it is committed to freedom of speech?”

Another employee, UDLA historian and professor emeritus Edward Simmen, said Palou re-established La Catalina as a means of saving the university’s reputation. The chancellor didn’t want Mexican newspapers to pick the story up, he said, because the news could be a threat to the university’s accreditation.

As a result, Simmen said, La Catarina is safe from another closure.

“I don’t think they would dare touch it. Not now,” Simmen said. “Once (news of the closure) crossed the border, and once it got into American papers, you know it’s going to get into Mexican papers.”

Others, however, were less skeptical.

“I am happy about it,” UDLA professor Claudia Magallanes said. “We, the department of communication sciences and the whole team of La Catarina, are aware that we need to work on improving the newspaper … We want to prove to everyone that we can acknowledge our errors and that we know we have room for improvement.”

David expressed his enthusiasm for the reopening, as well.

“When this whole thing started, many of us were in despair,” he said. “We cried, and we felt small against a huge act of censorship. But once the tears dried, we kept a clear mind in solving the problem, we stood next to each other and, in the end, it was teamwork that really brought us to this conclusion.