The Albion Pleiad has been informing the Albion community since 1883. As Albion College student journalists, we are proud of that history. We are proud to be a part of a higher institution of learning that does not censor and does not have prior review.
On Jan. 31, I published a news story as editor-in-chief that reported on a student’s death in Michigan. The angle was to inform Albion students and to prevent a similar situation from happening on our campus. After receiving a complaint about the article, it was taken down from the website. We revisited the piece and posted a revised version about four hours later.
On Feb. 2, I received an email from the Dean of Students stating that the story had been removed from our website because of potentially negative implications. She also implemented a moratorium on our publication until further notice.
Upon internal investigation, we found that quotes from one of the sources were taken out of context and Pleiad fact-checking policies were not followed.
On Feb. 4, I contacted an attorney advocate at the Student Press Law Center [SPLC] for legal advice.
The recently written Albion College Communication Guidelines clearly explain the right to remove content from campus media:
“Albion College reserves the right, whenever possible, to remove, or cause the removal of any and all information contained or disseminated on or via the College’s property or resources that is false, or the College determines defamatory or unsafe for its members or its reputation.”
The management staff agrees that the original article should not have been published. However, there is no section in the Albion College Student Handbook which indicates that members of the administration can implement moratoriums on student publications. Violating the Student Publication, Electronic Media and Broadcast Guidelines “may result in suspending or withdrawing a CSSMO [college-sponsored student media organizations].” It explains that if a CSSMO violates these guidelines, it “shall recommend to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students that the CSSMO be terminated.”
I reviewed sections one and two of SPLC’s Legal Guide for the Private School Press. The organization advises against this type of action:
If a private school believes that its ultimate function is to turn students into valuable citizens, a basic understanding of and experience with the workings of a free society is a requirement. A student journalist who has experienced censorship and prior restraint throughout his academic career will approach the realities of journalism and its role in American society with a warped perspective.”
On Feb. 10, the Media Board reinstated our rights. The moratorium lasted for nine days and delayed the publication of 16 articles, including our exclusive with civil rights leader Julian Bond.
The Battle Creek Enquirer covered the moratorium, and the SPLC published two stories on Feb. 7 and Feb. 10. Princeton University’s newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, reported on the situation at Albion College, too. So did the College Media Association.
Implementing a moratorium on a student news publication is an unprecedented move here, and it’s something I have not seen in my six semesters on staff as a staff writer, copy editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief. Quite frankly, it’s disappointing to attend an institution where overreaching, administrative power can infringe on the education of student journalists. This was a learning opportunity, but I felt as though I needed to defend the publication.
Today, my staff is welcoming four new student journalists. We will continue to publish three times each week. I’m excited to move forward, and I wish everyone a successful semester.
Photo by Alex Carey