Top officials at Cedarville University confiscated an independent newspaper being distributed by students last week, setting off an debate that spilled across religious, human rights and media websites along with social media.
Zach Schneider, the editor of the paper, and three other students were handing out copies of The Ventriloquist April 23 when they say they were approached after mandatory chapel services by university President Thomas White and Jon Wood, vice president of student life and Christian ministries, Schneider said.
Schneider, a senior computer science major from Maryland, said Wood told him to stop handing out the newspaper.
“‘Zach, you know you’re not supposed to be distributing these. You’ve got to stop distributing these,’” Schneider said Wood told him.
“He grabbed the papers and started kind of pulling them out of my hand,” Schneider said. “I wasn’t going to get in a tug-of-war with the vice president, so I let them go.”
White, president of the Baptist university in Greene County, said this week he and Wood did take the newspapers because they hadn’t first been cleared by the administration.
“This is simply a matter of unauthorized distribution. On our campus, even Gideons International obtained authorization to distribute Bibles. So it’s just our standard protocol.”
According to Mark Weinstein, university spokesperson, a person or group wanting to distribute literature on campus must submit it to the university office overseeing the request, typically the director of student life programs, or vice president of student life and Christian ministries, who is Wood.
Schneider said The Ventriloquist had been delivered without incident twice a semester since the paper began in 2010. He believes a first-person article in the February issue by Avery Redic, an openly gay former Cedarville student, touched a nerve for administrators and may have led to the April incident.