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Students vs. Trump: Liberty University president pulls newspaper column

Students vs. Trump: Liberty University president pulls newspaper column

The Daily Beast and the Richmond Times-Dispatch report that Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. is again drawing criticism for pulling an anti-Trump column in the student newspaper and defends his actions by saying the column’s content was “redundant” in comparison with a letter to the editor run in the same issue.

The column deletion comes on the heels of a statement against Trump and criticizing Falwell, released last week and signed by more than 2,500 students (see Cafe post here).

From the Times-Dispatch:

“It’s all just a joke that it got any attention whatsoever, and that’s why I got kind of mad on Twitter last night because it was much ado about nothing,” Falwell said in an interview.

“The story that we ran was much stronger than the redundant one that we deleted,” he said, calling it “more anti-Trump and pro-Hillary.”

The pulled column was written by the paper’s sports editor:

…Joel Schmieg, the sports editor for the Liberty Champion, the university’s official newspaper, said Falwell’s explanation “seems to have some holes.”

“My column runs in the same spot on the same page every week. It has been there all semester. By pulling the column, I was forced to fill space in the sports section,” he said in an email.

The other piece the newspaper ran about Trump “was a letter to the editor endorsing Hillary. That should not be something that keeps a weekly column from a staff editor from running,” he said.

The column that did not run addresses the 2005 tape in which Trump talks in vulgar terms about how he has groped women he finds beautiful.

An excerpt from Schmieg’s column, reproduced in the Daily Beast:

The things that come out of a man’s mouth when his guard is down is probably what is in his heart.

With that said, everyone deserves forgiveness for things that seem to be in the past. But in this instance, the words said do not seem to truly be in the past. He was never accosted for his atrocious words. And most importantly, it seems the words spoken are par for the course.

Donald Trump may have issued an apology for the words he said, but the fact that he can brush them off with a description of “locker room talk,” tells me that he does not believe what he said is truly bad. It tells me that this man says things like this all the time, because it is casual talk to him.

Ladies, please hear me when I say the words spoken by Trump are not normal. That is not what decent men talk about. Not even in high school. You mean so much more than that, and you deserve so much better than that.

The Times-Dispatch answers questions of editorial control in its reporting:

As for the editorial authority he holds over the student newspaper — unusual at the college level — Falwell said that he reviews content because the university is the owner and publisher of the Liberty Champion.

“The students are not the publishers of the newspaper,” he said. “Liberty has full editorial control over the newspaper.”

Asked for comment, Sarah Rodriguez, the paper’s editor-in-chief, said in an email that “as a student newspaper of a private university, we at the Liberty Champion submit to the authority of the university in our publishing of the weekly paper.”

In its guide for the private school press, the Student Press Law Center, an advocate for student First Amendment rights, notes that private institutions “are not generally subject to the limitations imposed by the First Amendment.”

An email thread posted by the website Refined Right includes a message Monday from Rodriguez responding to a request she said she had received to send Falwell “all the political stories we are running.” She said she was sending all but “our coverage of Gary Johnson’s convocation speech from this morning because the story is still being worked on.”

Falwell replied that “only one column about Trump’s videotape should run,” and at first he suggests pulling the letter written by a medical student.

“On second thought, keep the column by the medical student and get rid of the one by the student athlete about the videotape,” he responds later.

Falwell verified the emails but said it is not the case that he reviews all political stories, only opinion articles to make sure they cannot be misinterpreted as representing the position of the university.



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Kenneth Knapp

Presumably they would all be better off at an Ivy League institution where anything other than a progressive democratic viewpoint is considered a micro aggression. I don’t think we have any basis for throwing stones at Liberty University given the progressive bigotry of the colleges we adore.

JC Fisher

“the progressive bigotry of the colleges we adore”

We adore bigotry?

Something in this phrase doesn’t stack up (or maybe several things).

Jon White

I’m pretty sure he meant the colleges we adore, not the bigotry.

Jeremy Bates

When was the last time any administrator exercised editorial control over the Harvard Crimson or the Yale Daily News?

Answer: It never happened, because those student papers are independent corporations.

The situation at Liberty involves treating undergraduates as though they were high-school students.

Gregory Orloff

No, they would be better off at any higher education institution that allows differing viewpoints, popular or unpopular, mainstream or otherwise, rather than censoring them from above to enforce a political alliance that is incongruous from a Christian perspective.

As for “Christian” universities, let’s remember that the very Christian parents of such brilliant Christian luminaries as Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus, to whom we owe much for the articulation of our Christian faith, didn’t bat at eye over sending their sons to the best educational opportunities of their time at the pagan University of Athens.

Despite the pagan curriculum, the Christian faith of neither Basil nor Gregory suffered a whit — but gave them the tools and the language to speak that Christian faith in ways the broader culture around them could understand.

Maybe religious “gated communities” aren’t so good for intellectual development, after all…

Gwen Palmer

Generally, I would say that it’s not that hard to find conservative peers to socialize and share housing with, in a general university, or an ivy. It’s somewhat harder to be a liberal in a fundamentalist university than to be a conservative in Enormous State U., or a competitive school with a liberal bent. I’ve got a conservative niece who considered Liberty but went to a first-tier state u. instead, and has both found the quite-large Biblical Christian group there to hang with and is getting a stellar education. Not claiming it’s easy to be a minority, but it’s often a larger minority than critics would admit.

Gregory Orloff

So much for liberty at “Liberty” University…

Jay Croft

As I said before:

Transfer out of “Liberty University,” as you don’t have liberty there!

Plenty of other colleges and universities will be happy to receive you.

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