STAFF EDITORIAL | Importance of rights at private universities

La Salle University, a private Catholic school, came under fire after its student newspaper published a story on the front page of an April issue about a professor who had used exotic dancers at an off-campus event to demonstrate a point. Head university officials had protested the publication of the story.

The newspaper staff placed the story beneath the fold—as requested by administrators—but the top of the front page simply read “See below the fold.”

We at The Butler Collegian are startled by La Salle administrators exercising their right to hinder free speech among their students.

We understand that private universities are privately funded and have the right to infringe on First Amendment rights of students when they see fit, but we do not support these universities doing so.

Actually, one of our biggest problems with private universities infringing on these rights is that students pay very expensive tuition to attend private schools and for that reason, should be given the respect of our administrators by not being censored through universities’ public forums.

Especially at Butler, we strongly disagree with this practice because we are here to gain a liberal arts education and learn how to effectively communicate our opinions. If we are silenced by administrative pressure, what kind of liberal arts education are we truly receiving?

As newspaper staffers ourselves, the idea of the administration being completely within its rights to shut us down is intimidating. However, we believe in college there should be a level of respect between the administration and the students. As student journalists, we are still learning and we should not be held back from doing our jobs and reporting thoroughly. The university may be uncomfortable with some published topics, but they should communicate with students by writing letters to the editor instead of blatantly censoring articles.

The recent events at La Salle have reminded us that, because private universities such as Butler don’t receive government money, they are not bound to the same constraints as public universities. Because of this loophole, it is important that there remains a balance of power and respect. We do not want private universities censoring anything they find offensive. It would be counterproductive to teaching students to voice and support their opinions, no matter who the critics may be.

Universities in general, particularly small ones, are very lucky to have student-run newspapers.  In a tight-knit community like Butler, gossip tends to travel fast and facts can sometimes be forgotten.  Student-run newspapers can be a driving force in setting the record straight or reporting on a topic that may not be common knowledge on campus.  A lot of times, stories that students are not aware of tend to relate to university faculty, staff or administration.

Most stories published on topics that universities find controversial are not accusatory in tone, but report on an unflattering event. They are stories that may be critical but must be seen by our readers. It concerns us greatly that there may be some event, similar to the one at La Salle, that must be reported on but because of stipulations like this, we wouldn’t  be given the opportunity.

We at The Butler Collegian take great pride in what we do and are glad to be able to provide campus readers with information.  We worry about what the consequences would be if our articles were censored and not properly published, but we appreciate the freedom we have enjoyed thus far.

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