Protest and Oppose Censorship of the Record

Protest and Oppose Censorship of the Record

To the Antioch Community:

As adjunct faculty serving as a mentor to students on the Antioch Record staff, I protest and oppose the Lawry administration’s censorship of the Record. I am advising the students to resist all censorship and intimidation.. And I urge members of the Antioch community to support the Record in affirmation of freedom of speech.

Censorship is — of course — grossly unacceptable. It is unethical and immoral. Censorship, or any infringement of people’s rights of free discussion, free expression and free inquiry, violates the most basic values of democracy and community, not to mention liberal arts education.

That students at Antioch College are denied free speech is shocking and absurd.

Censorship of the Record began with its September 22 issue. In a letter to the faculty dated September 20, college president Steve Lawry announced that the dean of faculty, Andrzej Bloch, had been empowered to censor the Record, and that a new board would soon be appointed to “take overall responsibility for the Record.?

In an attempt to justify its censorship of the Record, the administration has made false and inflammatory statements. A letter sent September 18 to faculty and staff, signed by three administrators (Lawry, Bloch, and Rick Jurasek), characterized a feature in the Record (“Question of the Week?) that was clearly satirical — and clearly protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech — as “a crime? that put the Record in “high-risk legal territory.?

This is not true. As a newspaper editor and publisher for 33 years, I can assure the community there is no way that the Record, or any other newspaper in America, would be at legal risk for printing this material. (Record staff confirmed this in a consultation with the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.)

Not true, also, is the charge made by Lawry, in his September 20 letter, that the Record’s “generally poor editorial judgments? and “the persistent presence of anti-social and aggressive speech and prolific use of obscenitites? in the Record “systematically degrade and dishonor? Antioch College.

It is not the Record, but the administration’s censorship of the Record — its denial of basic rights of freedom of speech to members of the Antioch community — that degrades and dishonors Antioch College.

The Record is an essential part of the Antioch community. It is rooted in the values of the community, and it speaks in the voice — or the many voices — of the community. It’s a good newspaper. Despite deep cuts in the Record’s funding, the editors have assembled a large staff of talented, enthusiastic, hard-working students. They have provided the community with a diverse mix of interesting, lively, well-written news and opinion.

Last week’s “retro? issue of the Record, full of articles and pictures the staff selected from Records published down through the years, brilliantly illuminated Antioch’s long and passionate commitment to the struggle for human rights, social justice, and freedom of expression. And fun — the Record brightly illuminated Antioch’s bold, free spirit.

The Record, far from dishonoring Antioch College, honors Antioch in the most essential, meaningful way — by expressing, and embodying, Antioch’s spirit. At the heart of Antioch is the free spirit of Antioch, and all attempts to suppress it must be opposed.

Sincerely,

— Don Wallis