Boston College drops requirements from proposed lease with student paper

MASSACHUSETTS — Boston College officials abandonedtheir attempt to gain more control of the school’s student newspaper by removingrequirements in an office lease proposal that would have imposed new advertisingand editorial policies on the independent student publication. InSeptember, officials at the private Catholic university in Chestnut Hillproposed a lease for the paper’s 600-sqaure-foot campus office that would haverequired the paper to, among other things, refuse advertisements for alcohol ortobacco products, adopt a faculty advisory board and give the university and itsstudent groups a 50-precent discount on advertisements. The stipulationswere included in the lease proposal because of complaints about a sexuallyexplicit ad for a Boston nightclub the paper ran last year, said Jack Dunn, aspokesman for the university.Editors of the student newspaper saw theproposed lease stipulations as an attempt by the university to limit the paper’sindependence. The students refused to sign the proposed lease, putting thenewspaper at risk of losing the campus office it has used since 1971.Butafter months of negotiations, Heights editors and Boston Collegeofficials announced last week that they reached a compromise. The universitywill drop its proposed stipulations from the lease and the Heights willpay more rent and either hire an ombudsman to handle reader complaints or holdan open meeting to solicit reader feedback once a semester.”From thebeginning, our concern was for the Heights to uphold respect for ourvalues as a Jesuit Catholic university,” Dunn said. “We simply asked them to bemore responsive to concerns raised by the university community. This agreementrespects their right as an independent newspaper to judge their own news andeditorial content.” Because Boston College is private, it is notbound by the First Amendment to grant the student newspaper free-press rights.But journalism and civil-liberties groups called on university officials torespect the Heights‘ editorial independence and remove the stipulationsfrom the original lease proposal. Ryan Heffernan, editor of theHeights, did not respond to requests for comment, but he told theBoston Globe he was pleased with the agreement.Under the newlease, the newspaper will pay $700 per month in rent, up from $50 per monthunder its old lease. Dunn said the $50 rate was “not reflective of market ratesand therefore was, in essence, a subsidy for the newspaper.””They saidwe should pay more for the space we rent if we are going to be trulyindependent, and on that point, I agree with them,” Heffernan said. “Anything we can do to further our independent mission is completely fine.”

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