Death of the First Amendment at Saint Louis University

May 1, 2007 | By | 19 Replies More

On Saturday, May 5, 2007, a free, independent and self-funded student newspaper is scheduled for a quiet execution at Saint Louis University, a self-professed Catholic, Jesuit institution of higher learning in St. Louis, Missouri. Most of the world with its varied woes will little note the goings on at the Board of Trustees meeting of Saint Louis University where an “executive committee” member hand-picked by University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. will likely recommend to the full Board that they adopt “recommendations” and implement a centralized student press “re-organization” which actually means the death of the First Amendment at the oldest university west of the Mississippi, and the death of a student voice, The University News.

Saint Louis University students don’t have a formal journalism program. Participation in The University News, the student press, is now voluntary and open to all students. Under “re-organization,” all student participation will be subject to a “Student Media Coordinator” which reports to the Vice President for Student Development who reports to the University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

Saint Louis University students now run The University News, and any student is free to participate and run for election among the student selected Editorial Board for the post of Editor-in-Chief. Under “re-organization,” all student participation will be subject to a “Student Media Coordinator” which reports to the Vice President for Student Development who reports to the University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

Saint Louis University students now have all accountabilities for staffing, hiring, firing, editorial content, production and business practices at The University News. Under “re-organization,” all student participation will be subject to a “Student Media Coordinator” which reports to the Vice President for Student Development who reports to the University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

To be fair, the “re-organization” plan says students control editorial content but, under “re-organization,” all student participation will be subject to a “Student Media Coordinator” which reports to the Vice President for Student Development who reports to the University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. Also, under “re-organization” all other aspects of control of appointments and hiring and firing of The University News and related organs are in the hands of the Vice President of Student Development who reports to the University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

The Constitution of the University News Organization which will be abolished by “re-organization” says the “University News Organization is chartered directly by the Board of Trustees, in order to assure its independence.” The Constitution of the University News Organization which will be abolished by “re-organization” provides for the current system which has served students and Saint Louis University well for 37 years. The Board of Trustees of Saint Louis University should reject “re-organization” and leave the First Amendment and The University News, the student press, intact.

[Phone calls to University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. to oppose the death of the First Amendment at SLU may be made between the hours of 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. CDT at 314-977-7777. Please be respectful, we shouldn’t want to upset the good Father. The SLU Provost (Second-in-command), Dr. Weixlmann’ e-mail is weixlmj@slu.edu. The SLU Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Porterfield’s e-mail is kporter6@slu.edu]

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About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (19)

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  1. Jason Rayl says:

    Sad as that is, the fact remains that SLU is a private institution, and the First Amendment deals with public speech. The Board has a perfect right to do what its doing for the slimmest of reasons. It would be far more disturbing for this to happen at UMSL or one of the Community Colleges, which are "public" institutions. Attending a school like SLU os very much a "pays yer money and takes yer chances" kind of thing.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    True that the BOT may do as they please but, is killing off the students' press freedoms in keeping with the traditions of a Catholic, Jesuit institution? I assert that such is not the case.

    The only solution is a political one which is what I propose. All interested persons please contact the administration or the Board members, if you know them, and ask them to please say it ain't so! Thanks in advance.

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    I suppose it depends. If part of that free speech was the advocacy of birth control and access to abortions, I have a sneaking suspicion the Catholic Church, even Jesuits, might be inclined to say no.

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    Jase, did you read the post? The University President has unilaterally decided to abolish a free student press and put into place his version of Pravda and make the organization like Tass in the old Soviet Union, run from the top down as strictly a party organ.

    Have you had any food today, or are you just grumpy on May Day?

  5. Chris says:

    is killing off the students’ press freedoms in keeping with the traditions of a Catholic, Jesuit institution? I assert that such is not the case.

    Is this some kind of joke? Yes, of course it's in keeping with the traditions of a Catholic institution. You didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition?

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Catholics *invented* censorship – but they certainly adopted and practiced it enthusiastically for centuries. I find it hard to believe that a Catholic institution would have ever had a genuinely free press in the first place. What if they tried to print something critical of the church?

    If you're a Catholic, you should seriously study some of the history of the church – that wasn't written by Catholics. If not, I can't think of any reason why you would consider this in any way unusual. Controlling what people are allowed to say or think has been the Church's primary business almost since it got started.

  6. Ben says:

    Tim is taking the high road here, and I respect him for that, and I hope the newspaper remains uncensored. However, the question always comes up…

    If Christianity is based upon the Bible, how are (rational) Christians supposed to make informed choices on topics which the Bible has already Spoken loud and clear?

    As humanity rises from the ashes of the Biblical era, well-meaning Christians find themselves faced with a dark reality that the Bible does not change. Even as we learned that racism, slavery, murder, torture, are immoral, the Bible remains as a pillar of mankind's foolishness. The Christian situation reminds me of a famous quote…

    "That's what I like about these high school girls, I keep getting older, they stay the same age" (Dazed and Confused)

  7. Tim Hogan says:

    The teachings of Jesus in the Bible tell us to love our Lord our God with all our heart and soul and being, and; to love others as we would be loved. The Bible says that from these we may obey all other commandments of God.

    If we as human animals prone to error fail in following the teachings of Jesus, it is we as human animals prone to error, which are at fault.

    But, back on the ranch! Call the folks at SLU, and politely urge them to refrain from error. Thanks!

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    Hmmm…"love our Lord our God with all our heart and soul and being…."

    Funny, I don't see many "believers" donating all they have to the poor, as Jesus instructed, or trusting in God to provide for them. I also don't see *any* of them loving their god "with all their heart and soul;" I see them squeezing it in between going to work, mowing the lawn, making trips to the gas station to fill their SUV, picketing abortion clinics, ranting against evolution, screaming at lawmakers to treat homosexuals as second-class citizens….

  9. Ben says:

    Tim, I have not called yet, because you keep saying I have to be polite "we shouldn't upset the good father". Are you just kidding about that part? I wanna tell those suckers exactly how I feel. And even if they do succeed in censoring the newspaper, they are going to have a hard time squelching underground newspapers and especially student blogs on the internet.

  10. Ben says:

    And about the Bible phrases… here is a good discussion for people who believe that *certain* parts of the Bible are true…

    http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=846#comments

    Genesis 19: 31 Then the firstborn said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of the earth. 32 "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him that we may preserve our family through our father."

    Psalms 137: 9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rocks.

  11. Vicki Baker says:

    Ben, I'm sure that Tim knows that the Bible contains naughty bits.

  12. Ben says:

    I respect the fact that some here may not want to risk NOT getting into Heaven. I am not worried about such things, nor are the majority of the folks to whose eyes will read this.

    (Vicki) I want to know why those parts are being ignored! Why is the Bible being held as some kind of holy book as if God himself had some kind of influence on it? I was trying to elicit some type of response which addresses that largely overlooked fact. Something like: "Oh THOSE parts, well, we learned from our minister and our parents that the bible isn't really true except for what we and the President of the USA tell you is true". Sorry if the Bible quotes offend anyone reading this.

    Leviticus 20: 27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them.

    1 Corinthians 8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. Hmmmm, that makes my skin crawl, being from a feminist/liberal upbringing.

    And Vicki, don't forget YOUR POP QUIZ (http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1173) which took Sam Harris' words out of context. Therefore, I apologize (once again) if these Bible quotes are somehow MORE offensive when taken out of context.

    And Vicki, I recall Tim mentioning something about God's Word…

    "The Bible says that from these we may obey all other commandments of God."

    To be Continued here…
    http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=240#comments

  13. Erich Vieth says:

    Did you hear the recent news about a Catholic University (Loyola) that is currently sponsoring an exhibit regarding books that have been banned? http://libraries.luc.edu/about/exhibits/banned/in

    I have lots of problems with many Catholic claims, but I also know many Catholics who, other than their one-hour per week in the church, are fiercely open-minded, skeptical and freedom-loving people.

  14. grumpypilgrim says:

    The list of banned books that Erich mentions contains quite a few works that are considered important classics of American lit — so much so that I doubt most high school students could get through school without reading at least one of them — to say nothing of the Harry Potter series, which have proven wildly popular. This makes me wonder: did the listed books get banned because they were popular, or did they become popular, in part, because they were banned?

  15. Tim Hogan says:

    The SLU Student Government met this evening in an emergency session and passed an unanimous resolution requesting the SLU BOT to delay the proposed Charter changes.

    As for me, I sued 'em on behalf of the Editor-in-Chief, that's enough rudeness for now. The BOT can do what they will but, the President and his minions may not run roughshod over good people who dedicate their time for the good of the community.

  16. Tim Hogan says:

    Oh, and most of the naughty parts of the Bible are in the Old Testament which "laws" have been supplanted by Jesus' new law as stated above.

    Some of the rest of the New Testament may have similar problems but, that's in part due to human error, lost translation and perhaps long trips without proper food and water.

  17. grumpypilgrim says:

    Speaking of the Bible, I find it strange that the Church should ban so many books, yet not ban a book in which the main character condones everything from rape and decapitation, to slavery and genocide. I guess I still haven't figured out that absolute moral compass they keep talking about.

  18. Ben says:

    I guess it just boils down to us atheists not reading between the lines enough. (note to self: next time only quote naughty parts from the *New* Testament)

    If only I had spent my formative years studying more Scripture and less math and physics and geography and culture and astronomy I might still be more faithful. Better yet, if I had been raised in a cave with only scraps of the dead sea scrolls to learn by firelight (like Tim?), I would damn near be Jesus.

  19. Tim Hogan says:

    I dwelled in Aristotle's cave, was formed by faith and good works towards me and my family, and brought up in a community which reported my doings before I got home form my misdeeds, real or imagined.

    Unlike some immoral nihilists I know, I don't normally cast aspersions upon those which believe (or not) differently than I.

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