Private Ohio college confiscates independent student newspaper

OHIO — The president of Cedarville University and another top administrator confiscated copies of an independent student publication as they were being distributed by students on campus Wednesday.

Zach Schneider, The Ventriloquist’s editor-in-chief, said he and another student were distributing copies of the paper like usual when Thomas White, the university’s president, and Jonathan Wood, the vice president of student life and Christian ministries, came up to them and took the stack of papers they were each carrying.

“I wasn’t going to get into a tug-of-war with the administration, so I let the copies go,” Schneider said. After that, Wood picked up a box that held more copies of the paper and the two started to walk away, Schneider said.

“I walked after them and asked if I could have the papers back,” Schneider said. “They were like, ‘you can’t distribute those,’ and I said, ‘well yeah, but can I have them back?”

White told him no, “they’re being confiscated,” Schneider said.

The Ventriloquist is required to get permission to distribute materials, the same as any other outside organization, said Mark Weinstein, a spokesman for the private university. Weinstein said that has been the policy for some time, but he did not know where the policy was documented. It is not explained in the student handbook.

Weinstein said administrators confiscated this issue because they had learned when The Ventriloquist planned to distribute — something they did not know in advance of the previous issues. The Ventriloquist comes out one to two times a semester, and was last published in February, Schneider said.

“If they didn’t have the advanced notice, it would have gone out,” Weinstein said.

The Ventriloquist, which is funded with a grant from Generation Progress, was founded in 2010 to give students a place to express themselves, Schneider said. He oversees the paper, which solicits contributors from students and alumni, and a few volunteers help distribute each issue.

“The primary purpose of the publication is to provide perspectives and opinions that are not given a platform elsewhere on campus,” Schneider said.

The February issue featured a first-person account of a student who said he was removed from campus leadership positions after administrators learned he was gay. In the most recent issue, a student wrote critically about how administrators reacted after learning she had confided her feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide to friends.

Weinstein said the policy violation was the only thing that triggered the confiscation, and not the paper’s content.

“I know the university supports free thinking and discussions on topics,” he said.

Going forward, The Ventriloquist will need permission from the Office of Student Life to distribute. Weinstein said he couldn’t speculate as to whether the publication would be allowed to distribute in the future.

Schneider, a senior, is stepping down as editor after this issue and isn’t sure what will happen to the publication.

Contact Gregory by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 125.