Honestly, I feel sorry for them, all of them.
I feel sorry for the students, who thought they were doing their job. They came heir to gobs of publicity they never imagined, but all they were doing is following up a story with legs, a story that went to the heart of things at Cedarville University.
I feel sorry for the administration too, even though they seemed deplorably ham-fisted when, after daily mandatory chapel exercises, they walked up to the students who regularly pass out their newspapers and grabbed those papers by the dozens, confiscated the whole bunch, something they'd never done before.
I feel sorry for the President because in a free country like ours, his grabbing newspapers out of the hands of the students is something akin to book burning. I feel sorry for him because the issue in the ink--homosexuality--is incredibly volatile on a campus so promiscuous in its piety.
I feel sorry for the kid too, the one who came out, got disciplined, and left campus. It's too bad he felt he had to leave, but who couldn't understand why he left?
The students claim the problem was an article about him, the kid who claimed to be gay but also claimed to be abiding by Cedarville's code of celibacy for all students, regardless of what people call "sexual preference." According to the article, the student was stripped of leadership positions because the administration simply wasn't comfortable with an openly gay student leader. He's no longer there.
Here's the way President White describes Cedarville:
At Cedarville University, we strive for academic excellence with Gospel purpose. We believe the Bible is God’s Word. We have chapel five days a week, a Bible minor in each of more than 100 accredited programs of study, and a biblical worldview in every class. We have a doctrinal statement and a community covenant that every faculty and staff member affirms.
Wow. Sounds righteous all right. But if you grab newspapers out of the students' hands, you're going to have explain why such action isn't it's own form of bullying, why such behavior isn't putting the kibosh on free speech, especially when the story is true. It just doesn't seem as holy as you'd like it all to look.
Still, I feel sorry for President White. If he believes he did the right thing, he's going to lose, big time. He tried to explain his actions by a slippery slope: if these kids just hand out stuff, what's to prevent any Tom, Dick, or Hannah from handing out their stuff? Who knows where that might lead? That response stinks and everyone knows it, even President White.
If he really believes he couldn't allow students to read the story--which has to be the reason those papers were confiscated--I feel sorry for him too because his actions only grated the story a wider readership. I read it, as did thousands if not millions of others, the only story I ever read about Cedarville University.
I feel sorry for the President too because if he doesn't believe that airing the story was wrong, but did it for the good of the university, which is to say for the constituency, for those who shell out the big bucks and certainly wouldn't be comfortable with a gay kid--a gay leader!--on campus, then his answer is an outright lie. But it will play well with those who believe homosexual marriage means America is no longer a Christian nation, the very people, I'm sure, who don't feel a bit sad about the kid who came out, got disciplined, and is no longer there.
Here's what all this looks like from miles and miles away. A kid was told he could no longer be a leader because he'd publicly admitted he was gay. The administration determined that Cedarville simply could not countenance a gay student leader. Students journalists told the story. The President grabbed the newspapers because he didn't want it told.
Cedarville wants badly to be righteous, to be biblical, to be for Jesus, but they look like thugs. Perhaps President White sees himself as a follower of Jesus cleansing the temple.
He probably does. That too is sad.