Conservative paper wins against censoring senate
ILLINOIS — After a long struggle, a conservative student newspaper at Northwestern University has won the right to distribute freely on campus.
Many observers believe conservative student newspapers across the country have faced difficulties finding funding, writing in a politically correct era and distributing in the midst of wide-spread antagonism towards their ideas.
The culminating battle of the Northwestern Chronicle last May tells a lot about the problems these papers face. The Chronicle, an independently funded publication published since 1992, had been prohibited by the student government from distributing newspapers in front of individual dormitory rooms.
Unlike the official student paper the Northwestern Daily, which stacks its papers around campus, the Chronicle’s staff worried that its papers were more susceptible to theft because of their ideological stands, according to Editor in Chief Luke Preczewski. The Chronicle is known for running stories that some on campus find controversial and insensitive.
The direct distribution of over 6,000 newspapers, according to Preczewski, helps attract advertisers, too. The widespread distribution also means embarrassed sympathizers do not have to go out of their way to pick up the Chronicle.
But last April, the student government required certain publications that come out at least three times a year to limit distribution to rooms that requested it. All unclaimed copies also had to be picked up after 24 hours. Though neutrally worded, the law only affected the Chronicle.
These regulations were supposedly prompted by excess newspapers cluttering the hallways. The student government claimed janitors had complained about the mess.
The Chronicle violated the new rules and incurred further sanctions by the student government. The newspaper appealed to a university hearings board.
At the hearing, no specific student or janitorial complaints were substantiated and the sanctions imposed on the Chronicle were dismissed.
“The board went even further than we expected,” said Laini Wolman, the newspaper’s production manager. In light of similarly rejected complaints about the Chronicle’s distribution policy in the past, new disagreements must now go through the hearings board first. This protection against future student government wrath was welcomed by the newspaper’s staff.
Despite this seemingly absolute win for student press rights, Northwestern differs from many other private institutions in its ultimate sanctioning of an unofficial student newspaper. Northwestern dormitories are, by contract, considered public spaces and as a result, the school has limited ability to regulate distribution of student publications. The same is not true for every private school.
Like many conservative student newspapers, the Chronicle has worked hard to establish a legitimate forum for its ideas. The newspaper is a member of the Collegiate Network, an organization of 52 libertarian and conservative student papers around the country.
Many of these newspapers challenge students by offering ideas that some believe are not socially acceptable.
“We take on the role of verbalizing views others think, but are afraid to say,” Preczewski said. He added that the very nature of a free and tolerant society should be to accept ideas that most often “set you apart.”
reports, Winter 1996-97