The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Advertisement
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Mexico fans react after Mexico F Julián Quiñones 73rd-minute goal during the MexTour match between Mexico and Brazil at Kyle Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
‘The stuff of dreams’
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter • June 11, 2024

As soon as the Mexico-Brazil soccer match at Kyle Field was announced, Jacob Svetz and Caitlin Falke saw an opportunity.  The match was scheduled...

Advertisement
The Fighting Texas Aggie Band performs at halftime during Texas A&Ms football game against ULM at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.
Gridiron glory to multi-event marvel
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • June 7, 2024

Special teams: Special events  “My favorite thing about an event is seeing the people come into the stadium and seeing their excitement...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Advertisement
Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.
Review: ‘Furiosa’ is a must-see
Justin ChenJune 4, 2024

My jaw dropped open in 2016. Rarely in life does that happen, but the viewing experience of “Mad Max: Fury Road" was something to behold....

Texas A&M pitcher Chris Cortez (10) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Oregon at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
One step away
June 8, 2024

Tom DeFrank explains past student media censorship, rivalry with Rudder

Tom+DeFrank
Photo by By Chevall Pryce
Tom DeFrank

Standing in Rudder Tower, the building named after his former rival, award-winning journalist and Aggie Tom DeFrank told the story of The Battalion’s censorship from Texas A&M administration during his time as an editor exactly 50 years ago on the birthday of the university.

DeFrank is currently a contributing editor for the National Journal and was the White House correspondent for Newsweek. DeFrank has covered every president since President Lyndon B. Johnson, and has written a book on President Ford titled “When I’m Gone.”

DeFrank was the speaker during the latest Aggie Agora session, a seminar and speaker series meant to educate students and community members willing to come. DeFrank’s speech focused on his time at The Battalion dealing with his advisor, Jim Lindsey, and James Earl Rudder, the 16th president of Texas A&M University, for articles depicting the university in a non-flattering light. The events eventually led to DeFrank being fired from The Battalion.

DeFrank said he couldn’t imagine his situation occurring with present day student media, especially after viewing recent issues of The Battalion.

“It’s quite a tale, and by today’s standards it seems like a tale from another civilization,” DeFrank said. “It’s hard to believe that such authoritarian, paranoid, unacademic, undemocratic and, in my view, unamerican behavior was ever to rule at this very great institution.”

DeFrank cited Lindsey censoring or getting upset several articles by The Battalion at the time, including articles about the cancelling of Johnny Cash’s performance on account of drug charges as well as an article concerning A&M soliciting graduate students for money, even though they still attended the university.

Rudder punished and criticized the newspaper, wanting it to serve as a supplement to A&M’s good efforts, according to DeFrank.

“I still hear him say, ‘Tommy, we do not air our dirty linen in public.’ That of course was his mantra and he enforced it with an iron fist,” DeFrank said.

For his resistance to being censored and controlled, including a letter from his then editor-in-chief titled “The Situation of The Battalion,” DeFrank was fired from the publication by the university. Rudder also wouldn’t shake his hand at DeFrank’s graduation, despite his good grades and accomplishments.

Despite his back-and-forth with Rudder, including Rudder believing that students shouldn’t have the last word in any argument, DeFranks said he still respects him as a person.

“In a speech at Sam Houston State…I said of Mr. Rudder, ‘He seems to think the world is one big infantry, and he’s the commander.’ And it was true then and it was true now, but I regret it,“ DeFrank said. “There was no need to make the dispute personal. I never took it personally, I still don’t.”

The article about conflicting political groups debating that was censored by his advisor will be put on display in Cushing Library, as a donation from DeFrank. University Archivist Greg Bailey said it will be a significant piece of A&M history to have on campus.

“We don’t censor anything here, and we don’t have a lot to document that situation,” Bailey said. “We want a full picture of what was going on at the time.”

Aggie Agora director Jennifer Mercieca said she invited DeFrank to speak to get a perspective on free speech.
“We wanted to give him the opportunity to tell his story,” Mercieca said. “It speaks about not only free speech on campus, but free speech in the world.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *