Ohio College Confiscates New LGBT-Supportive Issue Of Student Newspaper
A student newspaper at an Ohio college has itself become the news after all 400 copies of its latest issue were confiscated by administrators. Editors at The Ventriloquist, Cedarville University's student publication, decided to cover the issue of diversity at the Baptist college, including an op-ed from former Campus Community Director Avery Redic. Redic, who was removed from student government after coming out, details the saga in a piece titled "The Final Decision," which runs next to a story that carries the sub-headline, "I'm Gay: Why must I live in fear at Cedarville?"
[Ventriloquist editor Zach] Schneider said the copies were confiscated following a mandatory chapel service for all students, which is when the publication’s staff typically distribute new issues. University President Thomas White and Vice President for Student Life Jonathan A. Wood took the copies from Schneider and his colleagues.
“[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,” Schneider said. “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.”
Wood, Cedarville’s Vice President for Student Life and Christian Ministries, was hired last fall following a turnover in university administration—a transition that even piqued the curiosity of The New York Times, which wondered ”what kind of Christians” the faculty and students at Cedarville consider themselves.
Despite having the issues confiscated, Schneider said he hasn’t “heard from administrators or received any disciplinary actions.”
Though the paper has been openly distributed since 2010 without any issues from administrators, the school defends its decision to remove this particular issue by claiming the paper has never been an approved publication.
“Yes, they were confiscated,” said Mark Weinstein, Cedarville's executive director of public relations. "Our school has policies for soliciting and [students] need permission to distribute. It was checked and [The Ventriloquist] did not have permission.”
When asked if there were any recent changes to the student handbook that might explain why the four-year-old publication has suddenly been banned from campus after publishing LGBT-related stories on campus, Weinstein responded blandly. "Nothing's been changed in the handbook."
“It’s not uncommon at all for a private college to provide student a free speech policy that gives students the bare minimum of protections for freedom of speech—beyond what the law requires,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said. “Beyond the law, the free and uncensored newspaper is essential to a college community.”