Student body president, administrator halt Md. newspaper's presses on election day
University officials apologize, agree to reimburse campus publication for lost revenue
Spokesman editor Kevin Howell also asked administrators to reprimand the two people involved -- the school's student activities coordinator and student government association president -- for effectively censoring the newspaper because of their suspicions that the issue contained candidate endorsements.
Howell said SGA president Julian Dash called him on the morning of March 16 asking to see a copy of the newspaper. Howell refused, and he said Dash told him he would not allow the newspaper to be delivered until the elections were over. Howell said Dash was concerned that the issue contained candidate endorsements that could influence the election.
As it turns out, the newspaper did not contain any endorsements. Howell said this was because the editorial staff did not wish to support any of the candidates, not because The Spokesman did not have the right to publish them.
Vivian Ryan, the university's student activities coordinator, said she instructed one of her employees to ask the printer to delay delivery of the newspaper until 5 p.m. on Dash's request. She said SGA regulations prohibit the newspaper from publishing candidate endorsements. If she had known that the newspaper did not contain endorsements, she said "there would have been no need to have called" the printer.
"[The newspaper] is paid for by student fees, and the rules for campaigning say that neither the student government nor the newspaper can endorse a candidate," Ryan said.
But Howell called the actions of Ryan and Dash illegal. According to Howell, the printing company said it had been told not to deliver the newspaper until the following day. Howell said he asked the printer to deliver the papers on the day of the elections, but the printer was unable to do so because it had already started printing other jobs.
Spokesman staff members tried to publish the newspaper themselves using university copy machines but were only able to make 25 copies of the 18-page paper. They distributed the papers at the polling spot and posted a display of the articles on the college's main campus.
Howell said he was angered by the actions of Ryan and Dash.
"I really think it just shows the ignorance, not just of [Dash], but also of the student activities administrator, to think that they are allowed to do this and think they will just do it and not have any consequences," Howell said. "For them not to understand that the role of the media is to publicize these candidates, to get the information out to the student body, or whoever our readers are, so they can make their decision based on the information we bring to them, to me it just shows ignorance."
Howell said the university's vice president of student affairs apologized for the incident and agreed to reimburse The Spokesman for lost advertising revenue. Howell is awaiting discussions with the university's president and attorney to determine whether Dash and Ryan will be reprimanded.
Overall, Howell said, he is satisfied with the administration's response to the incident.
"It's something they had to do," he said. "They really had no choice, clearly seeing they were wrong in the matter. I'm not going to say I give them credit for doing it because it's just what they're supposed to do. ... For them to respond and know that they're wrong and pay back the ads, I guess that's good, but it's something that they're supposed to do, so I wouldn't give them any extra credit for it."
reports, Spring 2000