MORGANTOWN, West Virginia – Students at West Virginia University (WVU) were prohibited from distributing their conservative, student publication at the school library on October 14, despite prior approval from the college president.
The conservative students immediately hired an attorney to represent their interests to the university administration and to protect their constitutional rights.
The Mountaineer Jeffersonian, a new, independent newspaper, was founded with assistance from the Leadership Institute (LI) of Arlington, Virginia. LI helped the group to obtain a donor-supported grant to produce their first issue this fall and provided publications training for the staff.
Chris Walters, advertising manager and owner of The Mountaineer Jeffersonian, said, “I am shocked that at an institution of higher learning, a library would bar distribution of a publication to which a member of the staff was opposed.
“We received approval from the student government association and Dr. C. Peter Magrath, the college president, to distribute our paper wherever the Daily Athenaeum [the official student newspaper] is available,” Walters said.
The staff of The Mountaineer Jeffersonian placed 250 copies of their conservative publication at the West Virginia University Downtown Library at 3:30a.m. on October 14. Walters returned to the library at 11a.m. to discover that all the papers had been confiscated.
The librarian who held the papers told the group they did not have the right to distribute their publication.
“Access to knowledge should never be banned from a public library,” said Walters, who scheduled a meeting with the library staff to resolve the conflict.
Daniel Goffreda, a senior criminology major and editor-in-chief for The Mountaineer Jeffersonian, was present at the meeting and witnessed the librarian call the independent, student paper “just litter.”
Walters said the librarian added, “Also, your political cartoon is offensive to me, personally.”
The librarian argued that the group would have to purchase wire racks on which to display the papers in order to distribute them at the library. Walters noted that the official student newspaper is distributed in several locations without racks, but nevertheless decided to pay for new display racks.
“This compromise isn’t ideal: we won’t be able to distribute our next issue because the wire racks will not have arrived. Instead, we will have a staff member personally pass out the paper in front of the library,” explained Goffreda.
The mission of The Mountaineer Jeffersonian is to defend “personal freedom and responsibility, limited government, and American patriotism.” The publication’s website promises the paper will “challenge the leftist dogma of biased administrators, support academic freedom … and attack incompetent … bureaucrats that abuse student rights.”
Staff of The Mountaineer Jeffersonian believes that conservative views are currently suppressed on the WVU campus, and they vow to “cover the stories other publications are afraid to touch.”
Nicholas Loffer, a Leadership Institute field representative for the region, said, “I have been encouraged to see that these LI-organized conservatives stood up for their rights in the face of leftist opposition from a university employee and continue to do so through their conservative publication.”
Walters is scheduled to meet with heads of departments at the university and will ask for an apology from the administration for the librarian’s mishandling of the paper.
The first issue of The Mountaineer Jeffersonian included articles about the subprime meltdown, the November election, and fraternity life.
For more information about The Mountaineer Jeffersonian, visit their website: http://www.mountaineerjeffersonian.com.
Ian Ivey is director of communications for the Leadership Institute.