Conservative newspaper editor says administrators restricted distribution based on content

MICHIGAN — Delta College student Heston Glenn was disappointed with how the campus newspaper, the Delta Collegiate, was covering the issues he cared about, so he decided to create a new newspaper with his friends’ help.

But when the students tried to hand out the first issue of the new monthly paper, administrators of the public community college tried to stop them, Glenn said. After student editors consulted a conservative advocacy group that threatened to sue the university, they say they expect no future resistance.

In October 2006, Glenn and his staff handed out 500 copies of the first issue of Vox Veritas, a free newspaper devoted to conservative Christian issues. But after they had finished handing out the issue, a professor told them they were not allowed to hand out the newspaper on campus, Glenn said.

Before publishing the second issue of the paper in November 2006, Glenn said he consulted with Sue Montesi, Delta College’s dean of students and educational services, about handing out the paper on campus. Glenn said he received Montesi’s verbal permission to distribute the paper, but “couldn’t get it in writing.”

According to Delta College’s student regulations, students can hand out written material in public areas of passage on campus without prior approval, as long as it does not interfere with “normal college activity.”

Leslie Myles-Sanders, general counsel at Delta College, said the school took issue with the paper’s distribution, not its content. Myles-Sanders said the students were “putting stacks” of the paper around campus, not handing out each copy.

But Glenn said his staff members were handing out the newspapers and he believes the administration’s actions were based on the paper’s content, not its method of distribution.

While distributing the November 2006 issue of Vox Veritas, police confronted both Rachel Butts, managing editor, and Paul Boothroyd, an editorial board member, and told them they could not hand out the paper. Butts said when she attempted to distribute the newspaper, Delta College police officers confiscated more than 250 copies and told her to speak with administrators or leave the campus. The papers were returned after Butts told a Delta administrator she would be seeking legal advice.

“They gave no example of why they were stopping us,” Butts said. “I was really upset about it because as a college, I think they should teach us to practice our First Amendment rights.”

Across campus, Delta campus police also confronted Boothroyd, but he was allowed to continue handing out the 35 copies of the paper he had, he said.

Glenn said he contacted the American Family Association’s Center for Law and Policy, located in Tupelo, Miss. He said that after the organization threatened to sue Delta College for violating the students’ constitutional rights, the college allowed them to hand out the paper on campus.

Myles-Sanders said to her knowledge, there was “no problem” when the students distributed the next issue in December 2006.

Glenn said after receiving legal help, he did not anticipate trouble from college officials when the students distribute the January issue of the Vox Veritas next week.

By Jared Taylor, SPLC staff writer