Dismissal of former adviser resurfaces

Ten months after the university decided not to renew the contract of then-Student Publications Adviser Tom Mueller, a national organization of publication advisers that opposed the decision has suggested the university reconsider.

The board of directors of College Media Advisers also asked the university to "draft operating guidelines that protect both advisers and students in their exercises of free expression," according to a press release.

Although he was not a member of CMA, the group had wanted to offer its support for Mueller, said Kathy Lawrence, the president of the group and student publications director at the University of Texas in Austin.

Lawrence said Mueller, who served as adviser to The Marquette Tribune and The Marquette Journal staffs for four years and worked at the university as an instructor for nine years, had no job description, performance appraisal or warning that he needed to improve his job performance prior to his termination.

"This was a really unfair way to deal with employees," she said.

After Mueller's contract was not renewed, Lawrence said she wrote a letter to University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild, Provost Madeline Wake, then-College of Communication Dean William Elliott and others regarding the university's decision.

Wild and Wake declined to comment through Director of University Communication Brigid O'Brien Miller, who referred comments to Garner.

A task force for the Society of Professional Journalists, on which Lawrence served, had also investigated the matter and issued its report in April. In the report, it said it did not believe "the evidence is strong enough to suggest that the university administration is overly involved in the newspaper's operations or is trying to control content."

The task force also suggested that the people who were interviewed about the incident expressed mixed reactions about the decision not to renew the contract.

Lawrence had also suggested in a minority report for the task force that Mueller be given a one-year probationary contract extension.

That will not happen, according to College of Communication Interim Dean Ana Garner. She said the university has begun to move on from the controversy, starting with the hiring of a new adviser for student publications.

"It's time to stop looking at the past and judge us by what we are doing (now)," Garner said.

The university has been working on implementing suggestions made by the SPJ task force, she said.

New adviser Stephen Byers "has a job description and annual reviews," she said. In addition, the Student Media Board, which sets policies for the Tribune and other student media outlets, completed new bylaws, which were approved by the Academic Senate in October and help separate the university administration from the newspaper, as the task force suggested doing in its report.

Mueller said he did not expect the university to reconsider its decision. He questioned whether the SPJ guidelines would have any effect on the university's relationship with the newspaper, but was not aware of the work of the Student Media Board.