Door-to-door distribution ban equals censorship, student editor says

CALIFORNIA— Editors at a conservativestudent newspaper at Stanford University are fighting a ban on distributingpublications door to door on campus, saying the policy is an act ofcensorship.

On Jan. 21, staff members ofThe Stanford Review purposefullyviolated the policy and distributed their paper door to door, said Editor inChief Ryan Tracey. Three days later, the paper’s staff was informed that aformal complaint had been filed against them and that they are beinginvestigated for breaking the policy.

Tracey said that for apublication like The Review, being ableto distribute door to door is essential.

”We’re apublication that, at times, goes on a weekly or bi-weekly time basis. It’shard for students to know when a new issue is out,” Tracey said.”Unlike a daily, [students] don’t know when to go forit.

”Door to door is important to us. It’s been the mosteffective way to reach students.”

Previously, the paper had noproblems delivering door to door, Tracey said. But the problems started twoyears ago when The Review published anarticle that criticized the Latino organization MEChA as being based on racistprinciples. After the article came out, MEChA lost its funding, hesaid.

”A lot of faculty and students who supported [MEChA] wereupset about the article,” Tracey said. ”Although the policy has beenaround, it wasn’t until then that the policy of door-to-door distributionbecame an issue.”

University officials have argued that they donot want to have to clean up the mess that the distributing papers door to doorwould bring, said Student Senate Chair Chris Nguyen. But Nguyen said thatuniversity officials are using that as an excuse.

”I thinkit’s a way to censor [the paper],” Nguyen said. Nguyen also citedthe MEChA article as what he thought to be the reason for the policyenforcement.

The current distribution policy says that in order foranyone to receive publications at their door, they must ”opt-in,” orrequest to receive them. The Student Senate took the door-to-door policy to thestudents and let the students decide for themselves, Nguyen said.

Students voted last spring to pass a resolution changing the policyfrom an ”opt-in” policy to an ”opt-out” policy, whichmeans that all students by default would receive the paper at their door and ifthey did not want to receive the publication, they would have to”opt-out.” Fifty-three percent of students voted for the opt-outpolicy, Nguyen said.

But the director of Residential Education gavethe Resident Fellows about five to 10 months to comply with the new policy, hesaid, which, in the meantime, leaves the decision in their hands. ResidentFellows are university staff and faculty that oversee their respective houses,according to Stanford’s Residential Education Web site.

JaneCamarillo, Stanford’s director of residential education, said in ane-mailed statement that the university supports the principles of freeexpression.

”Stanford, like any private or governmental entity,has the right to place reasonable restrictions, such as time, place, manner, onthe distribution of materials in private living spaces to protect students fromunwanted intrusions,” Camarillo said in the statement. ”The ‘no-distribution policy’ is the default position; student residencesmay vote to override the position if they choose.”

Camarillodid not address whether her office would adopt the ”opt-out” policythe students voted to approve last spring in the statement. She did not commenton Tracey’s situation either.

Tracey and two other supportersto the cause have written an op-ed that was published in the daily studentnewspaper, The Stanford Daily. The nextstep is to write a letter to administrators and await the outcome of theinvestigation, he said.

by Ricky Ribeiro SPLC staff writer