Why Does the University of Alabama Want to Shut Down The Alabama Observer?
Is it possible for the University of Alabama to tolerate the publication and distribution of a conservative newspaper on its campus?
Apparently not. In early September, we published the first issue of The Alabama Observer. Ten thousand copies were distributed throughout the state, mainly through the campus mail systems of Alabama universities and campuses. One would think that such places would allow, even encourage, the exchange of ideas. After all, that’s what universities are for, right?
What actually happened should send chills up the spine of any true believer in the first amendment to the Constitution.
First, the good news. After a little confusion at the beginning, the Provost of Auburn University not only agreed to distribute our paper, he even agreed to do it for free. The Alabama Observer reached the faculty and staff of the Auburn community without a hitch. We applaud Auburn Univeristy for understanding that it has nothing to fear from a free press and unregulated freedom of speech.
Distribution at the University of South Alabama, Troy State, and the University of North Alabama also took place without a hitch. UAB granted permission but wanted to charge us an arm and leg, so we decided to do it ourselves.
Now the bad news, and from an unexpected source: the flag ship institution of the state, the Universtiy of Alabama. About a week after we sent the paper out through campus mail, we got a call from a Mr. Bill May who identified himself as the Director of University Printing. Mr. May is not a member of the faculty and does not teach or do research. He told us that campus distribution of the Observer had been “a mistake” and that we would not be allowed to do it again.
Why not? We asked Mr. May to send us a copy of the regulations he used to make the decision to ban us. We waited. And we waited. Three weeks passed, and still no word. Could it be there were no regulations, we wondered?
You will not believe the story that follows. It is story of deliberate obfuscation and delay, but more than that, it is story of the length to which some in the university administration will go to limit freedom of speech. It is a story of deceit in the service of a stunning abuse of power, and it only gets worse.