By Manuel A. Miranda

Last Friday night as many as 5,000 issues of The Georgetown Voice were removed from their appointed distribution sites. This comes four months after the theft of nearly the entire 3,500 issue run of the The Georgetown Academy. No grateful American can compass, tolerate, or rationalize the destruction of publications. Having been born under communism and raised under fascist dictatorship, I, and others like me, know well that freedom, in all its forms, is hard won by the blood of patriots, but harder still to maintain and value day to day.

Whoever took The Georgetown Voice, and whatever motivated the stealing, one thing is certain, they are not alone to blame. In a court of law these malefactors could argue mitigating circumstances. In a court of equity, they could argue the defense of “unclean hands” ” i.e. that one cannot be heard to complain who has himself done wrong in the matter.

The first to bear blame are the editors of The Voice themselves. In October, when the editors of The Academy realized the disappearance of their publication they sent a short letter inviting the support of all three of their sister publications. So naively certain was The Academy’s Publisher in his call for support that he wrote a letter of only a few sentences and refrained from stating the reasons for the request, which he treated as obvious.

The response of The Georgetown Voice was to ignore the matter. In a news article on The Academy’s new editor-in-chief in the very next issue of The Voice, there was only a vague reference to the disappearance of “some” Academy issues. The betrayal of journalistic solidarity went further. In Campus Report, a national publication of Accuracy in Academia, then Voice editor-in-chief Kyle Sproul expressed some doubt The Academy had been stolen. She was quoted to say that she thought the janitorial staff could have destroyed the issues, and then added, with astounding contradiction in logic, that she thought the theft did “reflect a sentiment on campus.” One can only be tempted to apply the irony of that causal reasoning to The Voice’s recent plight and speculate only upon the campus’ thirty years of patience. Unless, of course, Sproul was describing the widely held sentiment among janitors on campus.

Notably, as recently as the very issue of The Georgetown Voice now stolen, The Voice editors referred derisively to the “theft” (which they placed in quotes) of The Academy, and of its attempt to protect itself as mere “publicity . pumped for itself.” Interesting, given the wall-papering of the campus that The Voice did over the weekend, and the speed (that some consider curious) with which they announced their damage on their website.

Much more at fault, in encouraging a university community where self-appointed repression of the press can be defended, is the previous editorial board of The Hoya. In their response to The Academy’s call for content-neutral support, The Hoya took the editorial position on Oct. 16, 1998, that i has to date not retracted, lending its applause for The Academy’s destruction. (Editor’s note: See Editorial on page 2, “Georgetown Loses Its Voice” for a clarification of The Hoya’s position). In its editorial, The Hoya defended such vigilante censorship as acceptable based on the content and style of the viewpoint expressed. This, of course, brought Georgetown a national black eye as syndicated columnists in newspapers throughout the country commented on the shocking illiberal departure of journalistic integrity on our campus.t

The Hoya’s former editor-in-chief Jeff DeMartino did not stop there. He rationalized the theft of The Academy according to his very own notions of “boundaries” that The Academy had crossed. He told Campus Report that those who destroyed The Academy were “not really out of line.” In an interview in the upcoming issue of Campus, the national journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, DeMartino defended The Hoya’s editorial saying “We weren’t that upset about [the theft of The Academy] because we felt that The Academy had violated certain standards of decency.” When asked by Campus to comment on the allegation that a university employee had been witnessed stealing The Academy, DeMartino said , “Is the issue with [he] who steals a stack of The Academy, or is it with the people who publish The Academy? Whether or not [he] had a right to do what he did is debatable.” Those of us who recall the 1990 campus-wide stealing of The Hoya for its allegedly racist comments, which was defended by those who did it on similar logic as DeMartino’s, can only be amused, and affirm among ourselves that youth is wasted on the young.

When asked why his paper failed to cover the theft as news, DeMartino told Campus that it was a “matter of policy” not to comment on other campus press. A comment remarkable enough for those of us who recall the front page 1995 Hoya news headline “Georgetown Academy Sparks Community Debate.” But when asked to explain why the paper decided to print an editorial on The Academy, DeMartino said that the editorial board sets its own policy, is separate from the news division, and thought it was important to condemn The Academy. Remarkable indeed.

But the greatest blame of all goes to the Georgetown administration that has delayed for months and still not properly addressed The Academy’s theft, and who silently condoned by inaction those who did it, and even academic deans who defended it. How shameful for Georgetown that The Academy itself had to publish the squeezed statement by President Leo O’Donovan defending free speech in its February issue. That same statement that The Hoya and The Georgetown Voice refused to publish in November. While at the Law School, in the same critical week in October 1998, Dean Judith Areen sent an immediate memorandum to each student, faculty and staff member condemning in no uncertain terms the mere pulling down of flyers of the gay student club. And with all respect, that the Dean of Students should first hear of the theft of The Georgetown Voice, three days after its occurrence, and from the Publisher of The Academy, shows a disconnect of certain proportions.

Today at 4 p.m., when many students are in class, the Dean of Students will convene a Forum on Campus Free Speech and Expression, without the promised attendance of Fr. Leo O’Donovan. It comes too little, too late. We may never know who stole The Georgetown Voice but this officer of the court knows who should bear the full responsibility.

Manuel A. Miranda is a 1982 graduate of the School of Foreign Service and serves as legal counsel to The Georgetown Academy.

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