Campus censorship has left The Signal staff miffed during the past two production nights. And oddly enough, the source of tension stemmed from Bliss Hall – the house journalism majors share with every other variety of English majors.
Saturday was Accepted Students Day at the College, and members of The Signal staff were asked by the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, to participate in the department’s Open House. Managing Editor Megan DeMarco, News Editor Kelly Duncan and Editor-in-Chief Joseph Hannan were in attendance to field questions from potential journalism and professional writing students.
The day was successful, with the exception of one egregious misstep by one English professor who staffed the event. The professor took copies of the April 1 edition of The Signal – “The Singal” April Fools’ edition – and hid them in the Bliss Hall lounge’s non-functioning fireplace. She later explained to both Hannan and Duncan that she had done so in order to not offend parents’ conservative sensibilities.
First, it must be pointed out that The Signal has enjoyed bountiful support from the English Department, particularly chairperson Jo Carney. Ironically, Carney said that very day how much she enjoyed “The Singal” and how she and her family looked forward to reading this year’s issue. The censorship, however, was done without her knowledge and without her consent.
The English Department has taken and is continuing to take steps to address this problem. Carney called the professor on Sunday evening, and the professor and Carney both came to the office to apologize a few hours later. The Signal is grateful for how seriously this violation of the First Amendment has been taken. Carney has said she will use this event as a teachable moment to foster an improved relationship between the journalism program and all other English-based department programs.
The Signal, however, feels it is imperative that we call attention to the severity of this lapse in judgment. Aside from this being a clear case of censorship in violation of the First Amendment, it sends a terrible message to The Signal staff, the journalism department and to would-be journalism students – and moreover all potential students – at the College.
For two years in a row now, The Signal has won a New Jersey Collegiate Press award for General Excellence – beating out daily papers at Rutgers and Princeton universities. The majority of the staff is unpaid, and those of us who are paid make less than a quarter per hour. To say it’s slighting us to hide our efforts from prospective students is an understatement.
Furthermore, what message does this send to prospective students? If an English professor is censoring The Signal, potential students might think twice about studying journalism at the College. This censorship also flies in the face of the liberal arts. Students come to the College to expand their minds and this requires open access to information.
And, think of the consequences if the College’s journalism staff decided to take away students’ copies of “Ulysses” or “Leaves of Grass.” Granted, “The Singal” isn’t exactly on par with these masterpieces, but censorship is indeed a slippery slope, and if The Signal suffers, who’s to say “Unbound” or the “Lion’s Eye” couldn’t suffer as well.
Again, The Signal appreciates how seriously Carney, the professor and the entire English department are taking this occurrence. We accept all of the apologies, but we take our efforts very seriously, and we guard our First Amendment right doggedly. We hope the situation doesn’t create any rifts within the English Department, but we demand that nothing like this ever happens again.