Inside Higher Ed reports that Hope and Chuck Bahr, editors of North Central University student newspaper The Light, were removed from their posts after they refused to allow administrators "pre-publication editorial power."
Susan Detlefsen, a North Central spokeswoman, said that the decision to require pre-publication review was the result of “an accumulation of events.”
Gordon Anderson, president of the university, cited two main problems with The Light’s coverage. The first, he said, arose when Chuck Bahr chose to write a news article about the Soulforce Equality Ride, a 30-member tour of 19 Christian and military campuses that have anti-gay policies.
North Central University, a Pentecostal college located in Minnesota, takes a dim view of the Soulfource Equality Ride, calling it a "publicity stunt". Chuck Bahr, the college paper's news editor, chose to cover the ride because it has attracted controversy not just at North Central, but at many institutions it visits.
Hope Bahr was editor-in-chief of The Light
President Anderson determined, because of the husband-wife relationship of the news editor and editor-in-chief, that "there was little chance there would be editorial oversight of the article."
Does the decision of Anderson violate Bahr's First Amendment rights:
Anderson pointed out that, because the university owns the newspaper and both are private entitites is privately owned, there is no First Amendment question in this case. The Bahrs admit that the university is on firm legal ground, but Hope Bahr said that, “we believe under Biblical principles we are allowed to question their decisions.” Student reaction, she added, has largely been apathetic. Most students “believe that the administration are our spiritual leaders and we should listen to them.”
Rather than a legal issue, the question, to Anderson and the Bahrs is what role the student newspaper should play. North Central policy says that “the opinion section is a venue where students should be free to express their opinions on matters that concern them. This includes columns or commentaries that advocate change in university policy or practice.”