Suicide is not something we like to discuss. That is no reason to shove the topic under the rug and forget about it or to censor an entire issue of a newspaper.
At the University of Portland, a student took his life March 24. However, it doesn’t seem as though that is the most important factor anymore.
In what the Review deems as a serious act of censorship, the university’s administration pulled its student-run newspaper, The Beacon, from stands March 26, citing that the headline, which read “Suicide claims UP senior,” was insensitive, inappropriate and shocking to readers. Facts are often insensitive to the emotions of those involved; that doesn’t mean we should ignore them or pretend they aren’t real. When a Linfield student took his life last summer, the Review reported about it. You didn’t see Linfield’s administration overreacting and demanding the paper be removed.
Now, instead of cherishing a friend, son and student, the only thing people remember is what the University of Portland’s president, Rev. E. William Beauchamp, did. The Oregonian titled its story regarding this censorship “UP senior’s death eclipsed by newspaper controversy.” The Review couldn’t have said it better.
According to The Oregonian’s story, “Amanda Clifford, a senior who co-wrote the article, called the president’s decision unfortunate. The article described Ted Karwin as a well-liked and upbeat senior who was widely involved in campus activities.”
In an opinion piece in The Beacon written by Jane Ihrke, titled “An issue of censorship,” Ihrke said. “What bothers me more than the fact that our school isn’t receiving a good name is that the focus is turned toward the administration’s hasty and impulsive actions rather than commemorating the life of Ted Karwin and acknowledging that measures need to be taken to start preventing suicide. After much thought and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that even if it’s not the University’s objective, it seems like the administration is making an effort to not acknowledge social problems that exist today.”
And not only that, but what about the issue of suicide itself? It happens, and to ignore it is ridiculous.
“I am still wondering why, after we became aware that the cause of Karwin’s death was suicide, Goldrick or some other authority figure didn’t send out another e-mail to students suggesting resources for those who may be contemplating suicide. The article written in The Beacon acknowledged that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Because the University didn’t respond to that fact by informing us what we could do if we have suicidal thoughts, my belief that the school is not willing to acknowledge this social problem is further enhanced,” Ihrke said in her opinion.
After reading the story ourselves, the Review staff members agree that it was an excellent piece of writing that showcased a student who was well-respected and active on campus in a sensitive and appropriate manner. The headline, though a little harsh, served its purpose and accurately detailed the story. We believe The Beacon’s reporters did a conscientious and admirable job reporting on a controversial subject; it’s not an easy thing to do.
The Oregonian agrees. In its April 2 editorial, titled “Taste and truth at the University of Portland,” it said, “The Beacon’s story was a straightforward and, to our eyes, respectful report of the circumstances of a young man’s death. It merited prominent display in the paper because these were not just any circumstances and this was not just any student. He was the second UP student who had gone missing in recent days and students were concerned, justifiably. Beyond that, Karwin was well-known on campus. The analog in a wider community—Portland, say—would be that a prominent business person had gone missing and had been found to have committed suicide. A newspaper that valued its credibility would have found a way to report such an event both prominently and, to the extent possible, tastefully.”
The Review believes that the censorship of the entire paper was a rash and an irresponsible decision of the administration. Think about it: Because the entire paper was censored, other important information, including the search for still-missing UP student Juan Garcia, sports scores and advertisements, were kept from the students.
Even if it is a private Catholic university, the students still have a right to know what is going on. It shouldn’t matter that the timely retraction happened to take place during Oregon high schools’ Spring Break, meaning that many prospective students and their families were on campus. It seems as though the school is more concerned about attracting prospective students than being “sensitive” for the student’s family and friends.
It’s all very sad. What should have been a memorial to a student’s life is now an issue of debate. Way to go, UP administration.
The Review accidently misidentified Jane Ihrke in this editorial. The Review apologizes for any inconvience this may have caused. (11/24/09)