Another week, another newspaper theft on campus. Inside Higher Ed reports today that 4,500 copies of the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s student newspaper, were stolen on Monday, becoming the latest example of a disturbing trend on campus. As Tara reported just last Thursday, newspaper thefts have occurred in the past few weeks at Stetson University, the University of Southern Mississippi, and Weber State University—and that’s not even counting the newspaper burning held at Dartmouth.
The motivation for the latest theft is presumed to be Kernel editor Megan Boehnke’s story on the deaths of two University of Kentucky students and one recent graduate. Boehnke’s story ran in Monday’s Kernel, despite protests from the family and friends of the deceased, and revealed that toxicology reports on the students have found that all three were drunk at the time of their deaths.
Boehnke tells Inside Higher Ed that while she received more than fifteen contacts from individuals asking that the story be shelved, she refused to do so. As she explains, “This is the third year in a row where students have died in an underage incident within the first week of school. This is a continuing pattern, and unless this is talked about, it’s not going to go away… It is disappointing that someone would do this—that they would try to take this information away from people.”
FIRE President Greg Lukianoff shares Boehnke’s disappointment in her classmates. While noting that the University of Kentucky incident seems motivated by “a more personal fight than we often see,” Lukianoff tells Inside Higher Ed that he believes “there is this pernicious misunderstanding among students and sometimes even administrators and faculty that they have a right not to be offended.”
To their credit, University of Kentucky administrators have come out strongly in support of the Kernel. Patricia Terrell, vice president for student affairs at the university, told Inside Higher Ed that the school in no way condones the theft, stating that “[i]f people do not agree with something that’s in the student newspaper, they can exercise their right to send a letter to the editor or to publish a guest editorial.”
Of course, Terrell is precisely right. No one of us—not even those suffering from a recent loss—may legitimately silence the constitutionally protected speech of our fellow citizen.