VIRGINIA — The president of ChristopherNewport University defended the school’s student newspaper Tuesday with anemail blast to all faculty, staff and students after university employees hidcopies of the paper from racks during campus tours last week.
“The Captain’s Log is free to writeanything it pleases, and CNU fully respects the freedom of the press,”President Paul Trible wrote. “The university expressly condemns this conduct,and these actions do not reflect the custom, policy or practice of the university.”
Trible’sstatement followedan email sent to him Sunday by Captain’sLog Editor-in-Chief Emily Cole.
“I’msure you will agree that whatever small reputational harm CNU might suffer ifvisitors learn of the existence of drug crime on campus,” Cole wrote, “thatpales before the severe reputational damage of a university that activelyconceals crime from its prospective students and parents.”
Theday the papers were stolen, The Captain’sLog ran a front-page story about the bust of a dorm room meth lab oncampus. Trible wrote in his email that “young employees” who were “acting ontheir own initiative” hid the papers because they thought the article “would create a badimpression for visiting prospective students.”
Cole,who said she spoke with the employees responsible, also said the staffers were acting under orders from a higher-level universityofficial. Cole said she still does not know who that official was, anduniversity spokesman Bruce Bronstein said the university could not reveal anyof the names of those involved because they are protected by state law.
Bronsteinsaid the university intends to discipline the employees, but declined toelaborate. According to Trible’s email, “they will be disciplined in accordancewith university procedures.”
The Captain’s Log, a weekly newspaper, does notintend to pursue legal action, but published an editorial and story about thesituation Wednesday.
Colesaid the papers were taken from stands shortly after delivery April 4. According to Cole’s editorial,Captain’s Log Lifestyle EditorNatalie Shapiro said she saw a staff member from the admissions office carrying stacks of papers intoDavid Student Union. Stacks were missing from the student union and three otherhigh-traffic buildings on campus.
Cole said she approached the staffer thatafternoon,and that he told her hewas acting under orders froman administrator. She questioned Dean of Admissions Robert Lange, who said hedid not know about the order, but that he would solve the problem.
Within10 minutes, the papers were returned to stands, Cole said. The papers were missing fromabout 9 a.m. until about 2 p.m. According to the CNU website, the universitygives tours to transfer students at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Cole said the admissions employee was apologetic and explained that he was just doing what he was told.
“Such dishonesty in the service of ‘image control,’” Cole wrote inher email to Trible, “has no place on a campus that should pride itself on thefree exchange of ideas.”