If you live in Jackson, or even if you don't, you might think of it as a pretty conservative place. Birthplace of the Republican Party. Voted for Bush by a great majority in the past two elections. And now home to a paternalistic "university" that seeks to steal the speech and behavior rights of all who step foot on campus.
The latest evidence? Spring Arbor University recently seized every issue of the student newspaper because it printed a story about a cross-dressing professor the school didn't agree with.
The cross-dressing professor thing (Julie Nemecek used to be "John," but was fired from SAU after seeking transgender therapy - it's been big news around here) was bad enough. Now Spring Arbor University wants to prepare students for "learning and critical participation in the contemporary world" by seizing the student-run newspaper.
What, really, would Jesus do?
The school swiped all 500 copies of the newspaper, "The Crusader," from school grounds, offering to give it back only if the student editors cut the Nemecek story out. The school's reasoning? The story was innacurate (and they haven't even said why).
It's one thing to respond to a newspaper article with a letter to the editor, or a request for a correction. That would be the sensible thing to do. But to seize every issue with a ransom attached is deplorable, and unfit action in a democracy. The university has every right to add its thoughts to the paper's marketplace of ideas. Instead, it plays the part of the bully dictator.
SAU has had an image problem lately, and it responds by censoring the news it helped create. The school has raised all sorts of issues just with the Julie Nemecek issue: does a Christian-based workplace show compassion by firing a professor who needs help? Is it legal? Is it right? Is it even nice?
This latest example shows the university's backward ways - after all, how can a place of learning prepare students for the real world when its constantly acting like a paternal overseer? Is this the "contemporary world" SAU wants to represent?
I remember applying for a job at Spring Arbor - something like a PR assistant or something. I couldn't believe the requirements the school asked of students and employees: no drinking, no smoking, no pre-marital sex, or else. It was unbelievable. Slip up, and you're gone.
We're done with the Dark Ages, right?
SAU's actions show students what it's like to live in communist Russia, or fundamentalist Iran, not the United States. Here, we follow the words of Thomas Jefferson by respecting newspapers more than any governing body.
The lesson: if you're different, or even have a different opinion, than SAU, you're not welcome.
The Pharisees would be proud.