By: Benjamin E. Lykens (Whetstone Staff Writer)

A new policy instituted this summer by the athletic department will give Whetstone reporters less access to athletic coaches and students by allowing reporters to arrange interviews with them only after getting permission from a public relations (PR) spokesperson hired in 2011.

The policy came only a couple of months after The Whetstone published three stories about the athletic department and the football team, in which students expressed unhappiness at the way other athletes and regular students have been treated in contrast to the football players.

One of the articles informed students that Athletic Director Mike Drass may not have enforced a judicial board ruling against one of his players.

Steven Kramer, sports information director, imposed the rule, and said the policy was created to benefit the Whetstone.

“People who want to go into this business, they have to go through the proper channels,” Kramer said. “I did it for The Whetstone’s benefit and the department as a whole.”

Whetstone adviser Professor Victor Greto of Media Arts said it was not done for the benefit of The Whetstone.

“It was done to limit the free speech of students who want to talk to each other, and helps the athletic department control any story that the newspaper may want to report and write,” he said.

Greto said there are many “proper channels” within which journalism must work, but journalists also “go around” those channels in order to find the truth behind what an official policy may be.

“The Whetstone reporters could not have written those important stories about how dissatisfied students were and how they’re being treated if they had to go through a PR person,” Greto said.

The Whetstone has since attempted to set up a meeting with a coach and players but the meetings were denied.

Wesley President, Dr. Johnston said that Steven Kramer’s job was to help all media outlets, which include The Whetstone.

“My understanding of Mr. Kramer’s role is not to prohibit access to coaches or athletes but to coordinate,” Johnston said.

Political Science professor Dr. Tony Armstrong said there are even more serious issues related to the policy: it violates a student’s right to free speech.

“For (the football team) to tell them who they can talk to would be a very serious matter,” he said. “Something that should be clarified, and if necessary, something the faculty should address.”

The new policy Kramer instituted reads, “ALL interview requests including student, local or national media must be made through” Kramer.

According to Armstrong and other faculty, athletes have been warned not to talk to student media.

A paragraph, for example, in “Softball Team Rules 2012,” given to softball players this semester, says in part, “If you partake in any media relations activities without prior permission strict consequences will ensue.”

According to some athletes who attended it, Drass called a meeting of coaches and players last April after The Whetstone’s football stories appeared, and told coaches and players the opinions of students and athletes quoted in the articles were false.

Because the issue questioned Drass’ dual role as football coach and athletic director, Drass also told coaches and students at the meeting that he would love to only to be the athletic director.

Drass said he would not comment about last semester’s articles but denied through Kramer that he told players he’d rather just be the athletic director.

Wesley football players, however, did not hold back when asked for their comments on the story.

Freshman offensive lineman Nick Tyndal said he can understand why people feel the way they do.

“I can see people viewing it that way because we get more,” Tyndal said. “At the same time, Coach Drass takes care of his players.”

Former linebacker and senior Mike Asieda believes that people have a right to say what they want.

“I didn’t think much of it,” Asieda said. “I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

Freshman wide receiver Hakeem Kornegay said that people’s opinions help him.

“It gives us motivation to work harder,” he said.