The Georgetonian Editor Presents the Facts about Censorship

by Tori Bachman-Johnson
Editor-in-Chief, The Georgetonian

Last week, Perry Dixon’s original Back Page article made two specific references that members of the administration had preemptively asked not to be printed in The Georgetonian in order to protect the identities of GC students (since then, outside media has become involved, naming the groups that I was asked not to identify).

Administrators did not read Perry’s article, and neither did our staff advisor; I read it and told him that we would have to change his two references, and only those two references. Rather than changing the references, Perry made the choice, as Back Page Editor, to run two sentences in place of his article: “The original content of this article has been removed. This Editor has asked that nothing be printed in its place in protest.”

Many people have assumed these lines to mean that someone, perhaps an administrator or me, forced Perry to remove the entirety of his article, and that is not the case. However, this incident has stirred up questions and concerns about censorship in The Georgetonian that are worth addressing. In an attempt to answer those questions, here are some lines from the contract I signed when I became editorin-chief:

“The Georgetonian, a student newspaper, is owned and published by Georgetown College.” “The President is the publisher” and “the Provost, on behalf of the President, serves as the Publisher.” “Historically and legally, Freedom of the Press under the First Amendment is freedom of the publisher from government interference. This freedom bestows the right…to establish policy for the publication and to determine the editorial stand of the publication. The establishment of these policies supports responsible journalistic expression and the learning process.”

Continuing on, here are several publication standards: “A publication must reflect the purpose of the College, its Christian perspective, and an awareness of its Baptist heritage.” Also, “the publication must have a view towards positive value for the College in what it reports.” Finally, “Opinion pieces may be critical if they are consistent with the publication standard outlined in this document, affirm the values espoused by the College, and reflect the assumption that decisions or actions of the College are made with the ultimate good of the College in view. The right of the publisher to establish policies for the newspaper is not censorship historically or legally.”

To summarize: The College’s President and the Provost are, as the publishers of The Georgetonian, protected by the First Amendment. However, Freedom of the Press is not extended to those who write for The Georgetonian. This policy, according to the law, is not censorship.
Interpret as you will.

Editors Note: The previous letter was provided to The Rambler by The Georgetonian, the student newspaper of Georgetown College. It was originally published in their February 17 issue. Please visit http://georgetonianonline.com/ to see the letter in its original context.

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