Censorship, the Student Senate, the Administration, and the Lanthorn

Reprinted from Wake Up! (February 1983)

The Constitution of the United States specifically states that in this land their shall be made “no law respecting an established religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”

The Grand Valley administration’s banning of the X-rated film Inserts must be seen as a violation of the first amendment rights of the student community of the Grand Valley State Colleges.

The Student Senate, clearly, has recognized this and that is the reason that they have sought to enlist the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in this matter. The Student Senate opposition to this censorship is very much a commendable course of action; and it should be hoped that they do not opt out of this confrontation for the sake of political expediency or the acquisition of some political capital from the administration (of signfificantly lesser value to the students true interests than the First Amendment).

Censorship at Grand Valley has a lengthy and inglorious history. The Student Run Experimental radio station (WSRX) was censored by the administration primarily through its elimination. The Lanthorn for years has been threatened with a cut off of finances from the administration – coincidentally when that paper has reported the news in ways contrary to the wishes of the administration. Board of Control member DeVos sent out Amway men to campus a couple of years ago to pick up all copies of The Lanthorn that they could find lying around campus were they were placed for distribution. The particular issue of that paper which so concerned DeVos contained an interview with DeVos in which he made some quite incredible, and one feels quite honest and candid, statements regarding his true feelings about the Grand Valley State Colleges and their students; in this issue’s interview DeVos let it be known that he had little respect for the “clowns and misfits,” or was it the “oddballs and outcasts,” who attended the colleges – or something to that effect – and he also stated that he would never send his own children to Grand Valley but that it was perhaps the right place for people who weren’t adequate material for Hope or Aquinas colleges to go to school – or something of that sort. Apparently Dick had second thoughts about the adequacy of his own words for public reading. There is also the case of censorship involving the Women’s information Bureau (WIB) newspaper which was confiscated from out of the WIB offices here on campus by the campus police on orders from our wondrous Grand Valley administration (however, WSRX took a single copy that had somehow escaped the cops, locked themselves in the studios of WSRX so that the police could not get in and proceeded to read – word for word – the entire issue of the banned newspaper over the air to the Grand Valley community).

Perhaps the laying over of white paint all over the art upon the walls of Lake Huron Hall without Thomas Jefferson Colleges permission should be mentioned in this context as well; a Ronald VanSteeland beautification project, going way back.

The list of atrocities against the first amendment rights of the Grand Valley student is something that we could go on and on with here. In a very real sense, the elimination of Thomas Jefferson College, the Performing Arts Center, and William James College, is cutting the student off from much information – much course material and styles of learning and teaching which ultimately will not be “duplicated” in the new conglomerated Grand Valley State-Thing.

In fact, Grand Valley has become a place where the institutional bureaucracy, under the influence of powerful “New Right” elements in the business community, has trampled underfoot the freedom to speak, to print, to broadcast, to teach, to hear, to learn what one will.

In order to transform the alternative academic community of the Grand Valley State Colleges into the more conservative and mediocre Grand Valley State, our institution’s central administration has readily turned to the easy utility of the gag.

After all, you are not going to know what rights you are losing if no one is there to remind you of what rights you have or how they are being fucked with.

In such a situation you are somewhat less likely to be an individual – and one must suspect that this administration has decided that individuality is not the image to be portrayed by the new Grand Valley State which they have been striving to achieve for so long.

1984 LOOMS CLOSE AT HAND ON THE CAMPUS OF GRAND AMWAY STATE. And this is precisely why the actions of the Student Senate, and especially Tim Swope, last year in opposing reorganization – pointing out that it would not necessarily save money but that it would certainly deprive many students of a choice in what they learn and how they learn it – was so surprising and welcome. Equally surprising and welcome has been the Student Senate’s, and especially Tim Swope’s, vocal opposition to the administration’s banning of the X-rated film Inserts from campus.

Unfortunately, The Lanthorn has not been sympathetic or understanding of the Student Senate’s legitimate concerns for the students of Grand Valley. The Lanthorn has in fact given the Student Senate a lot of bad press on this issue – and others. And this lack of harmony between The Lanthorn and the Student Senate on such a grave and basic issue as censorship must seem difficult ot understand or justify.

However, for the president of the Student Senate, Tim Swope, to call upon the Student Senate to take actions that would “confiscate” ultimate authority over The Lanthorn of the Student Senate is ludicrous, if understandable in some degree and in some short-sighted sort of way.

It is a proposal for the violation of the first amendment rights by an elected body which has engaged in contest with an unelected bureaucracy (the Grand valley administration) in order to protect those same first amendment rights.

Reason is lost here. The basis of Student Senate actions is in danger of going way off base.

When our founding fathers wrote the law of the land and decided that there would be “no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” they had in mind a limitation upon the elected governments of this land – you must see that this limitation includes a voiding of Student Senate actions to dictate policy to The Lanthorn as much as it would prevent the state of Michigan through its elected representatives and their bureaucrats dictating policy to the Student Senate in regards to what films are to be permitted to be seen and which banned from sight on our campus.

In the United States we have seperation of press and state equally as much as we have a separation of church and state – this is the ultimate guarantor of our freedoms as human beings and as citizens. When we forget this we lose our freedoms.

Wake Up! Opposes Tim Swope’s Proposal Regarding Lanthorn Governance as much as we support the Student Senate’s opposition to administrative censorship of the film Inserts.

Wake Up! supports the Lanthorn (and will continue to do so) in its efforts to fend off Student Senate control over its policy equally as much as we dislike its coverage of the Student Senate and that paper’s lack of intelligent content in general (with few exceptions).

Perhaps the Student Senate should seek ways to recharge The lanthorn with independence; get The Lanthorn out from under the shadow of the Zumburgerite administration; sever The Lanthorn from the Newspaper Advisory Board oversight which has been imposed upon it; and help The Lanthorn to regain its status as a free student organization again instead of just another icon to censorship, or stupidity.

President’s Proposal Regarding Lanthorn Governance

It is important that we maintain a true student’s medium on this campus. The current N.A.B. structure does not allow for this when it realizes that “student run” does not refer to one student. “Student run” refers to the student body, and as representatives of that body, I offer to you the following draft proposed for your consideration:

I. The Student Senate, being the elected representative body of the students, shall have final say in regards to Lanthorn policy. This shall be achieved by reviewing recommendations from the NAB (both majority and minority reports), reviewing recommendations from the remainder of the GVSC community, and reviewing recommendations from the Lanthorn editor. The Senate shall refrain from any judgment in regards to content of articles, except in cases of proven slander and/or libel.

II. The NAB shall report any and all action taken to the Senate for ratification within one week of the action. This report shall be in the form of committee minutes.

III. The Senate shall be ultimately responsible for the hiring and/or firing of The Lanthorn’s editor. Both actions require a 2/3 vote of the entire Senate and take place after reviewing recommendations from the NAB.

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Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org