ILLINOIS – It would take more than the arguments of a conservative student newspaper to win back status as a recognized student publication.
It would take Charlton Heston – partially, at least.
Picking up where his role as Moses more than 40 years ago in “The Ten Commandments” left off, Heston helped to part the waters of controversy between Northwestern University and the Northwestern Chronicle, a conservative weekly paper that was temporarily “de-recognized” by the school’s Associated Student Government.
University officials notified the newspaper of the decision to reinstate it as a recognized student organization in September, more than six months after the controversy started.
In March, the Northwestern student government, which determines which student organizations get free office space, voted to “de-recognize” the publication. That set the table for the ensuing battle, which included the paper’s unsuccessful appeal to a university panel in the spring, which was promptly followed by highly publicized support from both students and alumni – including Heston. “As a former student I’m stunned…make that appalled…that the president of a major University would deliberately dismantle a student newspaper,” wrote Heston in a letter to the university in June. “Even to censor such a publication as the Northwestern Chronicle is a violation of the First Amendment.”
Heston, an award-winning actor and the president of the National Rifle Association, also made an appearance on a local radio show to defend the paper.
Additionally, approximately 30 faculty members from the institution’s Medill School of Journalism showed their support for the paper when they signed a letter urging university president Henry Bienen to reinstate the paper on campus.
“As journalism educators, we believe deeply in the freedom of the press and the tolerance of divergent opinions,” read an excerpt from the letter, which was written by journalism professor David Protess and printed in the Chronicle.
“Regardless of how we viewed the editorial content of the Chronicle, it provided an alternative voice on our campus.”
Chronicle editor Chi Ng said he was pleased with the decision, which allowed the paper to end a publishing hiatus that has been in effect since June.
“I was pretty excited to hear that we can now publish. In the United States of America, you should have freedom of the press,” Ng said. “I think a lot of it [the de-recognition issue] has to do with personal bias. If it’s not popular on campus, you’re gonna get stomped on.”
Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said he doesn’t expect the issue will come up again anytime soon.
“[The newspaper is] up and running,” Cubbage said. “There’s been no more problems.”