When Tom Hudnut became headmaster at the Harvard School, its student newspaper, the Harvard News, was an afterschool extracurricular activity with no faculty advisers and no journalism class. Hudnut told student editors they were free to exercise their right to free press as long as they exercised it responsibly, and they did.
When the Chronicle was born with the merger of 1991, he continued to support student right of expression, never asking to see the newspaper before it was printed and never asking that a story not be written.
His staunch defense of the newspaper included giving editors heads-up on stories and big scoops — including last spring’s announcement of his own retirement. His support has given readers a source for honest coverage and commentary of Harvard-Westlake events, whether positive or negative.
The Chronicle is one of few high school newspapers that is not censored by its school’s administration. This freedom has allowed us to become the “shining beacon for high school journalism,” the National Scholastic Press Association described in their 2012 review of our paper.
Because the Chronicle is free to report without censorship, we have been able to play a more valuable role at the school by nailing down the facts when rumor-breeding scandals have occurred and by opening a forum for student and faculty opinion.
“One of [Hudnut’s] most important contributions was letting his student journalists be journalists,” sportswriter Eric Sondheimer wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
Free speech for the Chronicle has affected every individual at the school from the student journalists who learn to observe, question and report, to each student, teacher and community member who reads their work and gains a reliable account of Harvard-Westlake affairs.
So thank you, Mr. President.