Contract Queries: The legal issues of student reporting

Contractual obligations of visiting speakers are troublesome for journalism students, according to one journalism student.

“For my journalism class I needed to have a text and a video story,” said Kristen Rouse, a JEM 230 student. “As I was setting up my tripod, I was told by someone from the Center of Student Engagement that I was not allowed to film due to Moe Spencer’s contract.”

The event was the Moe Spencer “Smoke Screen” lecture, held on April 5 and sponsored by the Center of Student Engagement. Spencer, a marijuana attorney, explained the history and legal issues surrounding marijuana.

“Every one of our speakers has a contract process,” said Ashleigh Moyers, director at the Center of Student Engagement. “These speakers and their agents come up with a contract, which are basically like stipulations and things we agree to provide or that we don’t provide. Often times it’s just not allowing videotaping, not allowing meet-and-greets, things like that – it all has to be in the contract. So we really try to stick with that just out of respect for the speaker.”

JEM 230 students who attended the event did not know this at the time, nor was it explained to them specifically why they could not video.

“This information was not on the website, and even after she was told that I needed it for a class I was told that I absolutely could not film the lecture,” said Rouse.

Moyers explained that with some prior knowledge they could work some video recording into the contract.

“Often times we can write that into the contract and it’s somewhat common to allow the first five minutes, but not the entire speech. But it’s also important that you reach out to us in advance, so we can ask the speaker if that’s ok,” said Moyers.

“For future events, if any other students need anything like that, we can try to. Ideally, we can get it in the contract, so they agree to it in writing. If not, then we can ask them when they get to the campus,” she said. “Sometimes they are willing to grant interviews before or after an event, especially for students who are interested, but we can’t just spring it on them.”

The contract process is varied, lasting four weeks to four months, according to Moyers. Many journalism students in classes such as JEM 230 are unaware of contractual agreements with visiting lecturers and often do not have time to propose video recording prior to the lectures they attend.

“We have about 60 events a year, so maybe about 15 to 20 of those are speakers,” said Moyers. “Things that aren’t speakers students can film anything. They can film Volapalooza, Vol Night Long, things that are more like entertainment. But if it’s a person on a stage, that’s where we have an issue.”

For more information on the Center of Student Engagement, visit https://go.utk.edu/. More information on the university’s policies for visiting speakers can be found at http://publications.tnsosfiles.com/rules/1720/1720-01/1720-01-12.20141015.pdf.

 


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