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‘Spanking’ without consequences — University of Alabama sticks with leftist Anniston Star amid sexual harassment scandal


(Opinion) Last week, The Tuscaloosa News’ Drew Taylor reported the University of Alabama would continue its community journalism program at The Anniston Star, a newspaper in the public eye for sexual misconduct allegations committed by its longtime editor H. Brandt Ayers in the 1970s.

Monica Watts, the associate vice president for communications at the University of Alabama, verified The Tuscaloosa News’ reporting and told Yellowhammer News that this “excellent training program” would continue.

“The University considers the safety and security of its students as its highest priority,” Watts said in a statement offered to Yellowhammer News late Wednesday. “UA students have worked with the Anniston Star in the community journalism program since 2006, and absent additional information, this excellent training program will continue. Until the recent reports, the University was unaware of the allegations about Mr. Ayers from the 1970s. Mr. Ayers has not directly supervised UA community journalism students and, to our knowledge, has not played an active role in the newsroom training of our students during the program’s existence. Newsroom managers and UA faculty members directly supervise UA students.”

Far be it from me to question what a college student might learn from The Anniston Star’s newsroom. How to be hostile toward Republican politicians or working toward making Calhoun County a socialist utopia immediately come to mind.

However, how is it possible the University of Alabama in good conscience can continue its relationship with The Anniston Star?

Indeed, in this era of the political left (which includes the media and academia) being drunk on virtue, such behavior cannot go unanswered without some consequence.

Unlike, failed Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore, who faced allegations with nearly the same amount time elapsed as Ayers, Ayers admitted to the wrongdoing.

But then again, unlike Moore, The Anniston Star’s editorial board holds a lot of opinions with which those that run the University of Alabama probably agree.

A quick glance of the University of Alabama’s website shows a policy with an emphasis on raising “awareness” about sexual assault. Numerous op-eds and staff editorials have appeared in The Crimson White, the university’s student newspaper, over the past year decrying sexual assault and touting the #MeToo campaign.

The University of Alabama severing ties with The Anniston Star to make a statement and “raise awareness” seems like a no-brainer at this point.

The brain trust that runs the Capstone offers the rationale that since Ayers wasn’t in contact with the students in the community journalism program, there’s no reason to discontinue this relationship.

Here’s the dirty little secret: The University of Alabama has a long-standing relationship with Ayers. In 2002, the University awarded Ayers what was reported to be its highest honor — The Henry and Julia Tutwiler Distinguished Service Award. He was also the featured speaker that year at the University’s winter commencement ceremony.

Yes, Ayers graduated with a degree from Alabama in 1959. But otherwise, why would he be considered for such an honor? Was it the grand overtures about the merits of communism in the former Soviet Union? Perhaps it was his stalwart defense of Bill Clinton against a scandal-driven media years earlier.

The likely answer was that Ayers at the time was a player in Alabama Democratic Party politics. He and Alabama Education Association head Paul Hubbert, a Democratic Party candidate for governor, were allies. And he was in their view justly rewarded with this honor from high academia and built a relationship that continues through today.

The Anniston Star shouldn’t cease publication because of its previous editor’s behavior.

However, it should not be rewarded with having the prestige of the University of Alabama’s seal of approval. It’s not as if there are dozens of other newspapers spread throughout the state of Alabama it could partner with for this allegedly valuable education program.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.