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April 06, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Campus Newspaper Is?

So I was walking through the Alliot Student Center on Friday morning when I noticed something awry in the west doorway to the building. This area is where most free publications are dropped off — Seven Days, a variety of free magazines, and the bulk of the copies of The Defender. Well, this past Friday, I noticed that all the copies of The Defender were gone. There were four stacks in that very spot the day before.

I knew people had taken a heightened interest in campus media this week, but that seemed a bit excessive. It was difficult not to wonder if the disapperance was related to the unflattering stories about the S.A. E-board published in The Defender and The Echo earlier that week. But then again, the story about the E-board's food purchases broke too late to be published in print. The top story in the paper was the (relatively less ugly) story about a potentially invalid S.A. amendment vote. (There was a lovely picture of a St. Michael's student working with Dominican children on a service trip there too, but no one ever gets worked up about those stories...)

Of course, Friday was the beginning of Family Weekend and the next day was an Accepted Students Day, so a lot of people had an interest in making the campus look as harmonious as possible for this past weekend.

I let The Defender advisers and executive editor know about the disapperence, and in turn the St. Michael's Office of Public Safety and Security got on the case. They recovered the missing bundles of papers later Friday afternoon and returned them to their usual Alliot place. The Free Press picked up the story and published a short story about the situation on Saturday.

The perpetrator has not been publicly identified, though. Was it an S.A. associate angry about the recent negative press? Was it a member of college administration who didn't want parents or prospective students to see any negative news stories? Was it a janitor on their first day of work who didn't know that was the preferred spot for newspapers? Was a party-happy student looking to build a bonfire later that night? We'll never know...

Recently, 3,000 issues of Catholic University's student newspaper were trashed around campus, apparently in protest of the paper's discussion of gay rights. The Student Press Law Center has an alarmingly long list of similar cases around the country. If wannabe censors are motivated to silence a story, it seems that trashing papers only attract more press and attention.

As for the St. Michael's incident...well, I hope future bonfire-starters will consider using wood instead.

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