Northwestern Magazine May Close In ‘Vetting Committee’ Standoff

A Northwestern University professor who edits a bioethics magazine has shelved the publication over a dispute with administrators, who demand that public relations staff approve content.

Katie Watson, a professor in the university’s Medical Humanities and Bioethics program who edits the journal Atrium, said the demand followed recent controversy over the school’s censorship of an essay called “Head Nurses,” recounting sexual experiences with nurses. Watson said medical school administrators told her she must allow a “vetting committee” to review her editorial choices “and veto them if they were perceived to conflict with other institutional interests.”

“Approximately a week after this vetting committee told me what I would, and would not, be allowed to publish, I canceled the issue,” Watson told HuffPost, explaining she is “not moving forward with the publication under that condition.”

The standoff follows Northwestern’s censorship of last year’s Atrium issue containing an article written by Syracuse University professor William Peace about oral sex performed by nurses on hospital patients in the 1970s. Northwestern, a private university in Evanston, Illinois, removed the article from its website, but backed off when a faculty member threatened to expose the censorship.

Watson said she had been selecting proposals for the next issue of Atrium, which is published roughly once a year. She met with a hospital administrator, a medical school administrator on the faculty, a person from the medical school communication department — the members of Atrium’s new vetting committee.

Around the same time, Northwestern slashed Atrium’s budget, according to a letter Watson wrote to Peace, which was posted on his blog.

Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage declined to comment on Monday. The university wouldn’t answer questions from HuffPost last week about the Atrium censorship, and instead provided a statement saying, “The magazine now has an editorial board of faculty —> Read More