Duke professor attempted to ban student journalists from her economics class

A Duke University economics professor is under fire for trying to ban reporters from the school’s newspaper The Chronicle from attending her hedge funds class at the prestigious institution.

The Chronicle bills itself as, “The independent news organization at Duke University,” and staffer Likhitha Butchireddygari noticed something odd in the Spring 2017 syllabus for the course Economics 381S, “Inside Hedge Funds,” taught by Linsey Lebowitz Hughes.

“Anyone who is on the staff of The Chronicle is not permitted to take this class,” Hughes wrote to incoming students, according to The Chronicle.

Hughes did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“When I read that sentence out loud, I was met with audible gasps and bewildered looks from other members of The Chronicle staff,” Butchireddygari wrote.

The entire quote from the syllabus explains that some guest speakers might share confidential information, but doesn’t mention why journalists would be kept out: “Audio recordings of this class are not permitted and students will be asked to keep the information shared by some of our guest speakers confidential. Anyone who is on the staff of The Chronicle is not permitted to take this class. Please honor this in order that we can continue to get high quality visitors and information.”

“Anyone who is on the staff of The Chronicle is not permitted to take this class"

- Linsey Lebowitz Hughes

Wall Street Journal columnist and former Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Scott McCartney is also chair of the Duke Student Publishing Company board and emailed students about the situation.

“No student should be barred from a class because of extracurricular activities, and no Duke class should be hidden from open access to the university community… To ban Chronicle staffers from a class is absurd discrimination and shouldn't be tolerated by Duke,” McCartney wrote.

Hughes has been teaching the course since at least 2014, according to Butchireddygari. The online version of the 2017 syllabus has been taken down since Butchireddygari brought attention to the situation, but the school newspaper managed to preserve a copy before it was removed. Old versions with the same language remain online.

“The statement in the syllabus was the instructor’s clumsy way of saying that guest speakers should be considered off the record so they could be candid in their conversations with students. The syllabus was only provided to students after they enrolled and there is no indication that it was ever enforced. No one was, or ever will be, barred from enrolling in any class because they are affiliated with the Duke Chronicle or any other student organization,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement to Fox News.

Duke economics professor Emma Rasiel tried to defend her colleague in an email written to the Chronicle.

“I would stress that the language was a poorly worded attempt to remind students that the comments of guest speakers should be considered 'off the record' and not reported in the media or on social media,” Rasiel wrote.

While the ban on journalists attending the class appears to have been in effect since at least 2014, Schoenfeld claims it has never been enforced.

Schoenfeld told The Herald-Sun that Hughes “was notified that that was not appropriate.”

Schoenfeld also told the Herald-Sun that Hughes has “apologized to anybody who asked her about it.”

In addition to the attempted ban on journalists, Hughes’ syllabus asks students to wear collared shirts, and also lists some of the guest speakers that the professor is so afraid reporters might squeal on.

Perry Capital management Portfolio Manager Todd Westhus, Silver Point Capital Management Managing Partner Ranjit Ahluwalia and UNC Endowment Strategy Chief Josh Shapiro were scheduled to speak to Hughes’ class.

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.