Prospective students visiting Catholic University this past weekend were greeted with a plethora of publications advertising the benefits of attending the Northeast school for their undergraduate studies, but one rack was conspicuously empty.
The editor of the school's newspaper said that on Friday the admissions office removed copies of the school's student newspaper, which featured a cover story on a recent crime wave on campus, from its office.
"We knew that people weren't going to be exactly excited about the fact that our lead story was going to be about the crime on campus," said Kate McGovern, editor in chief of the student newspaper, The Tower.
Upon discovering that the issues had been confiscated, McGovern confronted admissions officials, who initially denied taking the publication, she said. Later, she said, the director of admissions informed her that the office would put 20 issues back on the stand Friday and then put the rest back on Monday, after a weekend event for prospective students. Ultimately, the admissions put all the newspaper back on the rack later on Saturday, McGovern said.
The article in question, headlined "University reacts to three-day District crime wave," coincided with Odyssey Day, which is reserved for admitted students to tour the campus.
The article reported on a spike in carjackings and armed robberies that occurred in the college's neighborhood, including the robberies of three students on campus.
"I can't say I'd be terribly surprised if it (happens again)," said McGovern on future prospects of issue theft. "We've been at odds with the administration for a few years now." CUA officials including Victor Nakas, executive director of public affairs at CUA, did not return phone calls from The Hatchet for this story.
The Tower has been an independent newspaper since its inception in 1922, and over the past few years has developed a contentious relationship with CUA's administration. Until recently, the administration refused to talk to the newspaper regarding any topic, McGovern said. She believes the tensions have thawed over the past year, but that events over the weekend may have halted any progress.
Official confiscation of student newspapers happens on a "regular, but infrequent basis" said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, an advocate group for student free press rights. A few years ago, the University of Pennsylvania was accused of removing copies of its independent newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. The university responded by adopting a policy prohibiting the removal of student newspapers.
While he challenged CUA to issue a similar policy, Goodman conceded that since CUA is a private university, any action would have to be initiated by the school itself. Across the country, most university officials do not confiscate copies of student papers because they realize "how horrible it makes their institutions look," he said.