One student editor fired, another suspended following protests at Grambling State Univ. Reviewed by Tracie on . By Tracie Powell UPDATING The online editor was fired and the opinions page editor is under a two-week suspension at Grambling State University's student newspa By Tracie Powell UPDATING The online editor was fired and the opinions page editor is under a two-week suspension at Grambling State University's student newspa Rating:
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One student editor fired, another suspended following protests at Grambling State Univ.

By Tracie Powell


The online editor was fired and the opinions page editor is under a two-week suspension at Grambling State University’s student newspaper, The Gramblinite, following growing tensions there between students and administrators.

David Lankster Sr. said he’s been fired after tweeting statements from anonymous sources and photos of dilapidated facilities (here and here) using the newspaper’s Twitter account, and he accused the school’s Director of Public Relations and Communications, former journalist Will Sutton, of attempting to censor student journalists.

“I was behind it. I was the only one on the ground hearing from the students and players,” said Lankster, the former sports editor who has worked at the paper since 2009. “Sutton was trying to mute our voice because we were tweeting the real news, the truth about what was going on.”

allDigitocracy reached out to Sutton on Sunday; he referred questions to the newspaper’s adviser who did not immediately respond to emails.

Tensions that have been simmering for weeks came to a head last week when Grambling football players walked out of a meeting with college president Frank Pogue; and they refused to play in a scheduled game over the weekend, taking a forfeit. Students are upset about crumbling buildings and a lack of teachers among other things, they said. There’s even mold in a section of the newsroom, Lankster said. Doors to the area are kept locked and students are told not to enter the area, he added.

While Lankster was fired, his colleague Kimberly Monroe was informed she was being suspended for two weeks. Monroe, the editor of the newspaper’s opinion section, said she was asked by the newspaper’s adviser to remove parts of a column submitted by Grambling’s student government president, including the president’s email address that he asked students to use to report problems on campus.

Kimberly Monroe“I refused and then I left,” said Monroe, a graduate student who said she has worked at the paper for two years. Monroe said she later attended a student rally where she spoke with local and national media about crumbling buildings and the student-teacher ratio. The next day Monroe said the newspaper’s adviser, Wanda Peters, asked what role she played at the rally. Monroe responded that she was there as a concerned student. “That’s when (Peters) told me that she didn’t know what she would do with me, but something would have to be done,” Monroe said.

Monroe can be seen in this Associated Press photo and is identified as the organizer of the Oct. 17th rally. She told allDigitocracy that she did help gather students, but had no idea members of the football team would attend. Having players present at the gathering on Thursday turned it into a media event that she did not expect, Monroe said.

Monroe was notified by email on Friday afternoon that she would be suspended from her job at The Gramblinite due to “unprofessional behavior.” An excerpt from the letter below states:

As a member of The Gramblinite, you should not have become involved in a public rally, as you did yesterday.  I know Mass Communication was not your undergraduate major so you missed the classroom instruction regarding conflict of interest.  But the Code of Ethics that you must read and sign each semester as part of your Gramblinite application outlines certain behaviors that are expected of you. Item No. 4 of the Code reads:

“We report the news without regard for our own interests, mindful of the need to disclose potential conflicts. We avoid involvement in campus events, politics, demonstrations and social causes that would cause a conflict of interest, or the appearance of such conflict.”

The letter is copied to Dr. Edward Welch, interim chief of the school’s department of mass communication, Dr. Janet Guyden, dean of the college’s graduate school and Dr. Connie Walton, provost and vice president of academic affairs. Peters, the adviser, did not immediately respond to emails asking for comment on the disciplinary actions against the student journalists, but she did include in the letter that Monroe contributes “much to The Gramblinite and it would be a blow to lose your participation.”

Monroe said she does not agree with the suspension. “I’m a student first,” Monroe said in a telephone interview, “a student who works for a student newspaper.” Monroe added that she did not sign a code of ethics at the start of the current semester.

Lankster, the online editor, said he began tweeting developments and student frustrations with administrators around Oct. 17. He does not recall how many tweets he posted, but said some of them have been deleted by school officials, but not before they had caught Sutton’s attention. Sutton, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, did not answer specific questions, but earlier he tweeted these admonishments to Grambling’s student journalists:

allDigitocracy has reached out to the newspaper adviser and other school officials. We’ll continue to update this story.

Correction: An earlier version of this blog entry stated that David Lankster Sr. was a staff writer at The Gramblinite. That is incorrect, he was online editor. We regret the error. 

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Comments (8)

  • John P

    Mr. Sutton:

    People in the know are familiar with your role in the meeting deterioratting Tuesday…There should have not been an SGA student in the meeting given the situation…You are quoted as “calling the players soft.” I have covered the SWAC for 20 years and was on the sideline at State Fair Classic until the final whistle in the rain…GSU Tigers were still competing until the final whistle…I played college footbal and had a daughte play D-I volleyball. I know what soft is. You need to issue a public aplology for those statements and leave well enough alone…I have talke with five former GSU coaches who are still coaching in the SWAC…And to a man, they point to you being there and your negative comments as the matvh that lit the fuse…They also all agree that your Presiden and AD are village idiots on how they handled everything from the firing of Doug to bringing you to a meeting that violated these student’s privacy…How these two students have been treated are symbolic of the chaois and confusion that reign at GSU…

  • Neal Hebert

    The activism of these students is inspiring. The actions of these journalists and the athletes speaks far better of the effectiveness of the school’s education mission than the actions of its administrators.

  • Mike Woolfolk

    It is important to remember that the college environment is a LEARNING environment and there are some lessons to be learned by everyone in this situation.

    1. It’s bad when school administrators attempt to censor or, in fact, censor student journalists working for the school paper. The intent of the publication should be to teach student journalists what real world journalism is about. I’m not sure why so many of our HBCU’s don’t get that concept, but we see this censorship issue pop up all the time when the student journalists uncover controversy/corruption/etc. on their beat, which is the university. Firing the online editor seems to be a bad move. (Based on what we know, publicly.)

    2. Ms. Monroe is learning the lesson that while she may consider herself “a student, first,” that’s not how thing work in real world journalism. Those of us who work or have worked in the news media could easily say that we are citizens, first but we don’t– because our professional code of ethics dictates that we can’t– get involved in things we must report on with objectivity. Her suspension is appropriate and should be considered discipline from which she learns. This experience should make it less likely that she’ll make the same mistake when she graduates and starts working at a profession publication.

    3. I know Will Sutton, personally, and served under him on the National Association of Black Journalists Board of Directors. We enjoy a good relationship despite my often critical disposition during his presidency. He’s a good man dealing with a difficult situation from a different vantage point. As a former newspaper managing editor, he knows journalism. As Grambling’s director of communications, he is now on, what some NABJ members once called, “The Dark Side.” He must control the message and spin that message in the best interests of GSU. Again, GSU is a learning environment and based on the tweets posted in this article, I don’t necessarily agree with Will’s approach. But, he is 1000% correct in what he said.

    I’m in Detroit, Michigan. I’m not in Grambling, Louisiana. I haven’t been a fly on the wall during any meetings between administrators, student-athletes, staff, fixers or anybody else. I only know what we all see in the reporting. Based on that, I hope GSU addresses the issues that have been raised. Be forthright and honest in explaining how things got to this point. Why are ceiling tiles crumbling? Why does it appear that walls have mold/mildew on them? (Is that really mold/mildew or some other stain– an inspection reports lists no mold in the football building.) Why did the football team have to endure 15-hours each-way on buses to get to its Circle City Classic game in Indianapolis? What are the issues with the football coaching staff? And, most importantly, what will be done to correct all of the issues and put policy in place to make sure this does not happen again? At this point, the dirty laundry has been exposed. It’s time to clean it up and focus on moving forward. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

  • njane


    This has nothing to do with learning “ethics in journalism” and everything to do with a stable and SAFE learning environment for the students. Has anyone ever debated with an administration of a HBCU? It’s like pulling teeth to get things to change or done for the students. Money is taken from questionable fees and misplaced over here, taken from accounts over there and transferred to wherever. As a former SGA member I understand these students frustrations with their administration and drastic measures had to be taken. The administration wants to cry foul, when their dirty laundry is aired. Censorship is not new on HBCU campuses and these administrations always somehow think they can trump the students 1st amendment rights with their own rules. Although, there is a familial environment among students, teachers, and administration, sensitive subjects (for the administration) like to be swept under the rug and dealt with when convenient or not dealt with at all!

  • CHarris

    You are a bit wrong here when you infer that Ms. Monroe should be following a code of ethics that a basic news reporter should. She is the editor of the opinion page and therefore follows a different code of ethics. Her very job entails commentary and opinion and therefore, she should be active in the community of what she covers in order to properly write and research her opinions. Perhaps you need a refresher on who should follow what ethical standard,

    • Roger

      You clearly don’t know the difference between the editor of the opinion section and a columnist, yet YOU lecture others on not understanding journalism?

      Is your post some kind of perverse joke? You’re in over your head here.

  • Robert E. Hentley, Ph.D

    I feel really bad for the current students at the university. There needs to be a change in the administration if what I read is true


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