Student Newspaper Report on Sorority Suspension Leads to Threats, Thefts, Trashing at New York’s Union College

A short write-up in a student newspaper at a New York college about a sorority’s suspension has led to threats, thefts, trashing, and a level of attention and vitriol editors confirm is unprecedented.

The Concordiensis recently published a roughly 100-word article confirming that Union College administrators were temporarily banning campus sorority Delta Delta Delta from doing, well, anything, including “new member/pledge activities, meetings, social events, philanthropy events, and educational programming.”  The suspension stems from an incident earlier this month that resulted in four students being hospitalized for alcohol-related ailments.

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The outside press picked up on the Concordy‘s initial report and, by all accounts, it reads as reputable journalism.  Yet, a spate of Union students have strongly objected to its publication.  They have demeaned it as a hit piece on what should be a privately-handled matter and claim it lacks context and well-rounded sourcing.

Concordy editors confirm the article generated roughly eight times the paper’s normal online traffic.  It also led to a rash of vile-filled comments.  The first one following the piece matches the tone of many: “This is disgusting . . . that this went to print.  Firstly, it is poorly written, secondly who cares, thirdly the facts are all wrong.  Concordy, disappointed.  Sad excuse of a paper.”

In a follow-up editorial, the paper’s editors-in-chief defend the story as an example of the Concordy‘s role “as a conduit of campus information and discussion.”  The facts back up their assertion: the information the paper reported upon was verified; it has newsworthy value (drinking and hospitalization and a Greek org suspension, oh my!); and it has been fleshed out in follow-up reports.  That’s decent journalism, folks.

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And this is censorship.  As an editorial confirms, in the wake of the piece’s publication, there have been “[n]ewspapers trashed. Secret notes slipped into editor’s bags. An anonymous phone call threatening a member of our staff. It has been an interesting week here at the Concordiensis.  On Thursday, about 900 copies of our newspaper were stolen from distribution boxes around campus and trashed in nearby recycling bins.  No students were apprehended.”

In a separate commentary, as Delta Delta Delta-gate continues, Concordy staffer Erin Delman praises the paper for stirring “passionate debate.”  As she writes in the piece, headlined, “On the Role of Student Newspapers,” “The Delta Delta Delta article aroused an intense emotional response across campus. While some criticize the article for being the catalyst for this reaction, I see it as a positive testament to the validity of the Concordiensis.  It must continue to serve as the uncensored venue through which students can learn about the news at Union.”

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