By The Berea Torch Staff
Despite our recent founding, The Berea Torch has already caused a storm within Berea College, especially among the administration. On March 21st though, the president of the college, Lyle Roelofs spoke about our publication publicly for the first time. This is our reply to his email, as well as other events concerning our fight to exist and engage with Berea College
Ever since our first article on January 31st (time flies by fast!), the administration, Student Life specifically, have been less than welcoming to our presence on campus. At first, our posters and stickers were torn down and we were called into a private judicial conversation, but the conflict had not spilled into the public yet. Things reached a peak on March 4th when Associate Vice President of Student Life Gus Gerassimides sent his now infamous email to the college, calling our publication a risk without college oversight and discouraging any member of the Berea community from being interviewed or supporting The Berea Torch. We sent that email to local publications and media organizations and within two weeks, The Richmond Register had “Independent student paper accuses Berea College of censorship” written on its front page. In addition, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E) sent a letter to President Roelofs, stating that the actions of Student Life “offend any reasonable notion of freedom of the press, and betray the college’s clear commitment to free expression.” Furthermore, they released their own article about the entire issue which you can read here.
With pressure building, President Roelofs sent an email to the Berea College community on March 21st, titled as “Statement Regarding ‘The Berea Torch.’” The email was a major change in tone when compared to the one sent by Gerassimides. While rather vague, it confirmed Berea’s commitments to free speech and ostensibly, our right to exist as a publication. While we are grateful to President Roelofs for not trying to ban or suppress us, there are still issues that need to be clarified. One of the main concerns is the lack of rights for on-campus, student-led independent publications, organizations, and businesses.
Here is our official list of demands from the college administration:
- A formal apology and retraction by Gus Gerassimides of his email on March 4th.
- A meeting between The Berea Torch staff and Gus Gerassimides that has been formerly agreed upon numerous times by both parties.
- Amend current rules and regulations ensuring that independent groups have the right to exist in Berea College without suppressions from the college administration.