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BC administrators remove orientation guide from racks
Student editor says actions were content-motivated
September 22, 2006

MASSACHUSETTS -- Copies of a freshman orientation guide produced by Boston College’s student newspaper, The Heights, were discarded by administrators last June because of a column that described his orientation experience as “miserable,” Editor in Chief Tom Wiedeman said.

But university administrators maintain that the incident was a misunderstanding.

Wiedeman said the special issue was supposed to be a guide for incoming freshmen about life at Boston College. At least, that was what he said he had in mind when he wrote about the “miserable” time he had during freshman orientation in a column.

“It was supposed to be a joke,” he said. “ Right after that it says, ╘don’t worry, life in BC gets better.’”

But officials at the university’s First Year Experience office, which runs freshman orientations on campus, were not amused. When Rev. Joseph Marchese, the program’s director, saw Wiedeman’s column, he ordered copies removed from racks and other areas where students and their parents would see them.

After reading the column about 15 minutes before students were to arrive for orientation, he said he decided to have the papers moved. Marchese said his intent was never to discard the newspapers.

“There was a good amount of content [in the freshman guide] that I read, which seemed to be good,” Marchese said. “But there were some things that misdirected students from what [the university] wanted, until I had a chance to look at [the newspaper] more, I didn’t want it to be on the footpath of students and parents.”

Editors said copies of The Heights were not just moved from its racks, but were thrown away. Marchese said some people may have “zealously discarded” some copies. Marchese also offered to reimburse The Heights for the 3,000 copies that were disposed of, Wiedeman said.

The Heights publishes a freshman guide each year and both Wiedeman and Marchese said his office have never been involved in the actual content of the issue.

But Wiedeman said the problem is much larger than the money. He said he requested university officials to reprint and distribute the issue again, but did not get approval. Instead, staff members handed out extra copies of the freshman guide.

Marchese said the column in question made it harder for his staff to have credible orientation sessions. He also said he tried to get a hold of Wiedeman to discuss the issue, but simply did not have enough time.

“We weren’t intending to censor anybody, that’s not the intention on our part,” he said.

Wiedeman said he will not pursue any legal action but wants to make it known to administrators that the incident was a serious one. He said he is continuing to speak to different university officials about the incident.

“We’re not totally convinced that this wouldn’t happen again,” he said. “I hope they recognize that if the administration were to throw away issues of The Heights every time we write something they don’t agree with, then it essentially eliminates us as an institution.”

By Marnette Federis, SPLC staff writer

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© 2006 Student Press Law Center

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