Students at Indiana college go underground in support of embattled newspaper adviser

Vincennes University students do not take First Amendment violations sitting down. Well, they do take them sitting down – but only when sitting behind a typewriter.


When student newspaper adviser Michael Mullen was reassigned, student editors – who charge the action was due to newspaper’s content – decided they needed to come together in protest – to create, as one student put it, “a voice against those who came out against us.”

The Intelligencer was the result.

Subtitled “an underground newspaper dedicated to the preservation of the First Amendment” and distributed on campus, the independent newspaper was published by Mullen’s former students. The Intelligencer, which is published in addition to the student newspaper, contains articles and letters expressing outrage and resentment for what they called “blatant censorship.”

“When Prof. Mullen got fired, we knew we had to have some sort of publication to give it some publicity because the school would keep it as quiet as possible,” said Matt Erler, managing editor of the student newspaper, the Trailblazer. At the beginning of the school year, students slid the first issue of the Intelligencer under faculty doors during a meeting. Students said they knew their newspaper would not be well received, but felt everyone in the administration deserved a copy.

Trailblazer adviser Michael Mullen believes controversial content in the Trailblazer, including stories that criticized the private university’s administration, was the reason he was transferred from the journalism school to the English department in May. He filed notice of a legal complaint against the school in September. A brief on the front page of the Intelligencer encouraged readers to contribute to the Mullen Legal Defense Fund.

Trailblazer Editor in Chief Ryan Wilson said it was easy for the students to find content for the Intelligencer‘s first issue. Professors, former students and parents wrote letters in support of Mullen – and warnings of what Mullen’s firing could mean for the First Amendment at Vincennes University.

“When there was no voice on campus that stood up to be heard, the Trailblazer stepped in,” VU journalism student Todd Stangle wrote in the Intelligencer. “With Mullen gone, I fear that there will be no watchdog on campus.”


The students are considering publishing additional issues of the Intelligencer to affirm their condemnation of what has happened at Vincennes University.

“As long as these kind of [situations] remain, the Intelligencer should also,” Wilson said.