10 April 2012

St. Augustine: Censorship, Not Confessions

Today was one of those warm, pleasant days that remind you of why people move to this part of Florida.  I rode a borrowed bicycle up State Route A-1A, along dunes and inlets of the Atlantic, to Saint Augustine, which claims to be the oldest city in the United States.

It is beautifully situated on an island and full of old buildings and cobblestoned streets.  Right next to the water is the old fortress.  Only a couple of blocks away is Flagler College.

In all fairness to Flagler, which is located in a Spanish-style grand hotel that dates to the 1880's, it's considered one of the best liberal arts colleges in this region.  And its $14,510 tuition, while not cheap, is moderate for the private college that it is.  Plus, the school offers a wide variety of majors and activities, particularly for a college of its size.

However, in recent years, it has become known for its censorship of The Gargoyle, the college's student newspaper. 

In September of 2006, an issue was pulled from the shelves, ostensibly over a factual error.  That edition of the paper included an article titled, "Campus Growth Forces Tuition Hike." Underneath that title was a subheading:  "Expansion puts Flagler into debt for the first time in its 38-year history."  Later,the article stated that Flagler got its funding from loans and fundraising as well as tuition.  According to Gargoyle adviser Brian Thompson, that statement contradicted the headline and made it seem as if the tution increases were already made.  They would, in fact, come to pass, but they weren't considered to be a "done deal" at the time the papers were pulled.

However, many students and faculty members believed that the real reason why College President William Abare ordered the papers removed from the racks was to keep high school seniors from seeing them when they came for tours on Campus Visit Day, which occured two days after the papers were confiscated.

The following April, Abare spiked an article about students' attempts to start a Club Unity, which would have been a reincarnation of the Gay-Straight Alliance.  In October 2004, the college's administration rejected an application to start CU; in February 2007, club organizers submitted a new application, along with a petition with 160 signatures (in a school of about 2800 students). 

At the time the censored article was written, Abare denied that he or any other member of the administration had seen the application for CU. He complained that the article "made it seem as if the application were sitting on my desk and I were dragging my feet."

This is how he responded to complaints about his interference with The Gargoyle: "This is not investigative reporting.  This is not what we're trying to teach the students.  If the students don't like that; if they're not comfortable with that, then they certainly don't have to work on the staff."

So the goal of going to one of the "best" private schools is to become a tool and a mouthpiece.  And all this time I thought it was supposed to make you a more independent thinker.  Silly me.  


  1. "So the goal of going to one of the "best" private schools is to become a tool and a mouthpiece."

    Um....I think you just summed up the purpose of elite education, possibly without even meaning to do so.

    I went to elite schools. Trust me when I say, the function of most of them is to teach people exactly how to be a tool and a moutpiece for the upper classes.

  2. Just an update for people reading this now. Dean Stewart (now Vice President Stewart) denied Club Unity after it was passed through our SGA. The club was later appealed and sent to President Abare who took it before the Board and got the club approved! Abare is actually really great at listening to students and he pushed for this club thanks to the outpouring of campus and community support. - Current Club Unity Board Member