Va. college officials threaten to confiscate independent student newspaper

VIRGINIA — Staff at the Lynchburg Current have refused to request official recognition from the Student Government Association at Lynchburg College for the student newspaper, despite warnings that future issues will be confiscated by the administration if they fail to do so.

Officials at the private Christian college in Lynchburg say recognition by the student government is necessary to gain access to the college community.

“Since we are going to cover the school government and the Student Government Association from a critical perspective, it makes no sense to be attached to them,” Editor in Chief Rich Danker said.

Danker began publishing the Current in April as an independent newspaper funded by donations and grants from non-profit groups, family and friends. The Citrograph, a longstanding student newspaper at the college, has been recognized.

Considering the requirements of being recognized by the student government — including advertisement restrictions, applying for re-recognition every year and having to write a constitution — Danker said he feels the “red tape” is not worth it.

Danker said that by seizing future issues of the Current, the administration would be contradicting the student handbook. The first of the student rights listed in the student handbook reads, “[Students have] the right to exercise freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceful assembly and petition.”

But Dean of Students John Eccles said the college recognition policy does not contradict the guarantees, and that the college has a right to protect its institutional values. “You have the right to say whatever you want to say,” Eccles said. “There are certain checks and balances in place that are meant to provide for the whole community.”

For example, student groups planning events must notify the administration in advance to ensure “the event runs smoothly,” Eccles said.

The college gave the Current until the end of September to apply for recognition, and Eccles has extended that date indefinitely. However, Danker said he still has no intention of applying for recognition.

Danker said he now plans to publish the Current on an independent Web site only.