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Journalist feared expulsion over university cuts story

A former student journalist now working on a weekly paper has revealed she feared expulsion from university after writing stories about cutbacks.

Katie French, of the Mid-Devon Gazette, was previously editor of Plymouth University student newspaper The Knowledge.

In that role, she published several stories about proposed cuts to student support services and alleged overspending.

However Katie has now revealed a dossier of messages in which representatives from the University of Plymouth Students’ Union (UPSU) warned her to stop running the stories.

She told Plymouth daily The Herald:  “I started putting up some articles that got their backs up; I was trying to stick up for students and I was being suppressed and fobbed off.”

Katie, pictured left,  told the paper she feaeed explusion from the university after the union told her that one of her articles could run the risk of breaching a disciplinary code.

The piece in question revealed a planned £260,000 cut to the university’s Learning Support and Wellbeing (LSW) service, which helps students with disabilities, dyslexia and mental health problems.

It was described as “ill-informed” by the union, and could run the risk of coming under a disciplinary code that could result in “dismissal or suspension”.

Katie told HTFP:  “I have spoken out about this to the Plymouth Herald but am hoping to reach a wider audience in the hope that it will force student unions and universities across the country to reassess how they treat student journalists.”

A spokeswoman for UPSU said: “UPSU can confirm it has received a complaint from a former student relating to the handling of a society issue around six months ago.

“UPSU takes all complaints seriously and will therefore fully investigate this matter in a sensitive and confidential manner out of respect of duty of care to both complainant and those she has made the complaint about for whom this is also distressing for.”


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  • October 14, 2014 at 7:41 am

    I went back to uni as a very mature student, and a moderate but committed trade unionist, and was shocked to discover the student union was now just an extension of the management and the union newspaper was awful (poetry corner anyone? Stage 5 history of art students get netball diploma! Vote for your favourite lecturer!). The union officials are paid faculty lackeys who rearrange chairs at events, sit on uni boards, take posts as directors, and do their masters’ bidding. It’s a disgrace.

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  • October 14, 2014 at 11:47 am

    “,,,,,,about for whom this is also distressing for.”
    Did this statement actually come from a university spokesman? Perhaps one whose English leaves something to be desired. Certainly no journalist would dream of using such a bizarre remark.

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