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DePaul Students End Sit-In That Shut the Paper

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

DePaul Students End Sit-In That Shut the Paper

Article excerpt

AFTER WINNING CONCESSIONS from DePaul University officials on how the Chicago campus paper will cover minorities, an African-American student group last month ended the 10-day sit-in that stopped the publication of two issues of the DePaulia newspaper.

Several dozen members and supporters of the Coalition for Concerned Black Students began the sit-in April 5 at the offices of the student paper, to protest what they said was the racially biased article in the Feb. 17 edition of the weekly DePaulia. The article concerned a brawl at a student dance.

The students demanded the dismissal of DePaulia editor in chief Zach Martin, staff writer Matt Mccarthy, and the paper's faculty adviser, Al Kipp. In addition, the group demanded that one page each week be devoted to minority-affairs and that once a year an entire issue be taken up with that theme. They also demanded sensitivity" training for the entire DePaulia staff.

During negotiations with the demonstrators, university officials ordered the 8,000-circulation DePaulia to halt publication -- an action that outraged student and professional journalists in Chicago.

In an editorial, the Chicago Sun-Times condemned "the university's apparent indulgence of those who have assaulted constitutional rights and what we thought were the fundamental values of a university: free speech and vigorous debate."

Three professional journalist groups -- the Chicago Headline Club, the International Press Club and the Illinois Freedom of Information Council -- protested the suspension in a letter to DePaul's president, the Rev. John P. Minogue.

"It's sad, tragic really, when a student publication is shut down under these circumstances. The wrong message is sent to the entire student body and the public," wrote Ed Rooney Jr., president of the Illinois Freedom of Information (FoI) Council.

In an April 12 memo addressed to "the university community," school president Minogue said the paper was not published "due to the sit-in and my desire to provide an opportunity to reach understanding."

A day later, however, Minogue ordered resumption of the DePaulia -- find vowed to get out the April 21 issue, even if it had to be produced at another location.

"I do not believe that further discussions in the context of a continued sit-in will foster the fundamental purposes for which our university exists," Minogue wrote in a follow-up memorandum.

The president did, however, offer several concessions to the protesting students.

He announced the university would hire "a highly regarded black communication specialist ... to work with the DePaulia staff for the remainder of this term . . . to design and implement training strategies dealing with professional standards, sensitivity, recruitment of staff of color, and inclusive reporting."

Minogue committed the newspaper to devoting one issue annually "to the concerns of students of color" and directed that the April 21 issue be devoted entirely to coverage of the sit-in.

"Because the student protest has remained peaceful, we will take no disciplinary action against those students for the actual taking over of the DePaulia office on April 5," Minogue wrote.

Finally -- in a concession that demonstrates how different student protest of the 1990s is from that of the 1960s -- Minogue said the university would provide "tutorial assistance" so the sit-in participants can catch up on missed schoolwork. …

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