Some leaders of Ohio’s private and Baptist-based Cedarville University were so upset that the student newspaper The Ventriloquist was developing a reputation for pro-gay content, they decided to just go ahead and confiscate every copy of it.
In an interview with Generation Progress, an organization that promotes “progressive solutions to key social and political challenges” generally centered around college campuses, Ventriloquist editor Zach Schneider recalled the initial confrontation with University President Thomas White and VP for Student Life Jonathan A. Wood:
“[Wood] came up to me and said I didn’t have permission to pass out [The Ventriloquist] and he grabbed the copies from my hands. I let him have them because I didn’t want to get into a tug-of-war, but asked if I could have the copies back. He just told me they were being confiscated.”
Sounds like Wood’s being a dick to us.
Schneider thinks that the pro-gay stance of The Ventriloquist was behind the shockingly immature behavior, and indeed recent stories from the newspaper with headlines like “I’m Gay. Why Must I Live In Fear At Cedarville?” and the recently published op-ed from a student leader who was removed from multiple posts after coming out prove his point.
Still, Cedarville is a private college and according to Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center Frank LoMonte, with that unfortunately comes limited first amendment rights for its students.
“On campus at a private college, the First Amendment doesn’t come into play at all. It’s like a private business.”
For now, the students seem to have given up, and distributed a letter to the students in which they “grieve the loss of free expression and healthy discourse once found in your newspaper, traits that ought to characterize all vibrant institutions of higher learning.”
We encourage them to bring The Ventriloquist into 2014 and just make it into a blog. They may be able to halt distribution at school, but they can’t close the internet.