NEW YORK — The Hudson Valley Community College Student Senate lockedthe staff of the student newspaper out of its office for eight days inFebruary during a battle over the newspaper’s refusal to stop running acontroversial ad.
The senate decided to lock the door to the offices of The Hudsonian aftermembers objected to the publication of a full-page ad for a local stripclub in the Feb. 2 issue.
The help-wanted advertisement for female dancers featured a color photoof a woman in a bikini and promised to pay new employees a $100 bonus afterthe first month of employment, according to Tony Gray, editor of TheHudsonian.
After the advertisement was published, the paper’s adviser of two yearsresigned abruptly, stating in a letter that he did not feel comfortableassociating his name with a publication that would publish strip club ads.
Citing the university’s bylaws, which say a student club cannot existwithout an adviser, the student senate locked the doors to The Hudsonian’s office,effectively shutting the staff members out and forcing them to cease publicationof the newspaper.
“The administration is upset at our insistence on exercising our FirstAmendment rights to determine the content of our student newspaper,” Graysaid a week after the staff was locked out. “They have vociferously objectedto editorials and news coverage for the last semester and are trying touse this for justifying shutting down the paper.”
Repeated phone calls made by the Report to student body presidentDean Farkas were not returned.
The student senate wanted the newspaper to find a new adviser and agreeto never publish the strip club advertisement or a similar ad again.
The Hudsonian staff agreed to find a new adviser but refused tostop publishing the ad because the strip club had already paid for it torun twice. The newspaper wanted to honor its contract with the advertiser,Gray said. But Gray and other editors said that if a separate agreementwas reached with the strip club’s management, they would not oppose it.
The student senate and the owner of the club ultimately reached an agreementwithout the newspaper’s involvement. The club’s owner, a former HudsonValley student, agreed to the senate’s request that he not publish thesecond advertisement in the next edition of The Hudsonian, and thestudent senate paid him $250 — the cost of the ad.
Media coverage of the student senate’s decision to shut down the newspaperplayed an integral part in the reopening of The Hudsonian,accordingto Gray. He said it pressured the senate to act quickly.
The Hudsonian staff has collected articles written about the incidentby other publications and posted them on the wall outside its office, creatinga “wall of shame” for members of the student senate to see every time theywalk to their offices next door, Gray said.
The Hudsonian staff missed the publication deadline for the Feb.16 issue, but was able to print an issue on March 1 by putting togetherthe biweekly newspaper in one week.
Gray said the incident has made him pessimistic about the future ofFirst Amendment rights for student publications at the college.
“I’m going to try talking to the school again about coming into compliancewith the laws regarding our First Amendment rights,” Gray said. “Basedon past experiences, I doubt much will come of it.”