- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

ALLENDALE, Mich. (AP) - There is a war of words between a Michigan university and its campus newspaper after an editorial urged the school to “stop prostituting” itself to donors whose names have been placed on classrooms and buildings.

In response, two Grand Valley State University officials said the newspaper, the Lanthorn, was “ignorant” and student journalists should return scholarships if they don’t appreciate the generosity of contributors.

Lanthorn editor Lizzy Balboa felt the letter by Matt McLogan and Karen Loth was intimidating and a threat to free speech.

“I expected the discourse to remain professional,” Balboa told MLive.com (https://bit.ly/1jeieGF ). “I’m concerned. I don’t know what kind of precedent it will set. I’m concerned with academic freedom. We’re at a liberal arts university where we’re supposed to be thinking critically and asking questions.”

The Lanthorn reported in December that at least 31 campus rooms were named after corporations. Separately, an editorial questioned the practice.

“What’s next? Will we turn Lake Huron 133 into the ‘Amway Lecture Hall?’ Will the backs of our chairs have plaques dedicated to the lower-level donors?” the newspaper said.

Amway is a major employer in western Michigan, and a GVSU building in Grand Rapids is named for co-founder Richard DeVos, an extraordinary philanthropist in the region.

“It’s time that we stop prostituting ourselves to corporate sponsors and reserve the eternal respect of namesakes for figures who significantly contributed to our educational endeavors,” the editorial said.

That was too much for McLogan and Loth, GVSU vice presidents, who said the editorial was a “kick in the teeth to generations of donors.”

“Instead, the Lanthorn, on behalf of our students, should thank donors for their commitments that make student success possible. That the Lanthorn is ignorant of this reality is astonishing, embarrassing and deeply disappointing,” McLogan and Loth said in a letter published in the newspaper.

GVSU later said it wasn’t trying to chill free speech.

“This is about one thing only - a Lanthorn editorial with which we hold a differing view,” the university said in a statement.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, https://www.mlive.com

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