Student Dies, Student Newspaper (Temporarily) Killed

Update: The paper is back online

Administrators at Michigan’s Albion College have revoked the publication rights of The Albion Pleiad student newspaper pending the completion of an internal review. The temporary killing of the Pleiad came in the wake of a misbegotten article published late last month on the death of a student at a nearby school.

The paper’s editor-in-chief admits the piece was problematic — featuring some rumors without verification and a quote without the proper context. Within four hours of its posting, staff put up a revised version and also instituted what the paper described as “additional steps to make our existing fact-checking policies as failsafe as humanly possible.”

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Alas, before they could actually implement those steps and begin learning from their mistakes, Albion officials swooped in with a full-blown shutdown order. In a note on its Facebook page, the Pleiad staff shares: “[T]he Dean of Students notified us that the article had potentially negative implications. She removed the article and put a moratorium in effect until further notice. … This is an unprecedented move by the Dean of Students.”

According to Student Press Law Center attorney advocate Adam Goldstein, the move is also childish — or at least pre-teen-ish. A reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer asked him if it’s the norm for colleges to completely shut down a student media outlet in times of controversy or crisis.

Goldstein’s classic reply, quoted and paraphrased by the Enquirer: “‘I’ve seen middle schools do it,‘ he said, but called it ‘extremely rare’ for colleges to go that far. He called it a breach of contract between the school and the newspaper.”

In public statements made thus far, an Albion spokeswoman is not explaining why some errors in a single article are worthy of such a rare, dramatic breach. The only thing being confirmed: “Pending the review results, the Pleiad will not be publishing, but our goal is to resolve this matter as soon as possible and have them online again quickly.”

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For those scoring at home, this is the third censorious/mean-spirited action carried out by officials at Michigan colleges and universities already this semester. A few weeks back, admins. at Grand Valley State University not-so-subtly intimidated the editor-in-chief of The Lanthorn after the student newspaper published an editorial they didn’t like. More recently, the University of Michigan football Gods kept The Michigan Daily out of a press conference in the wake of the paper’s big scoop about the indiscretions of the team’s kicker.

Albion’s move, sadly, trumps both of them.

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