The University of Virginia yesterday withdrew its support of the student-run Cavalier Daily, a move that threatened to shut down the newspaper for the first time in its 89-year history.
A weeks-long controversy centering on the publication's refusal to recognize a university-appointed Media Board came to a head yesterday when University President Frank Hereford forbade the paper to continue using university office space and equipment.
The paper's editors responded by packing crates of supplies and other materials and moving from their Newcomb Hall headquarters to an off-campus location in Charlottesville, where they hope to continue publishing.
The Media Board was established in 1976 by the university's Board of Visitors to act in an "ombudsman" capacity. It oversees campus publications and radio stations and is viewed by the Cavalier Daily editors and some students as a means of censorship.
The 13-member board, made up of U-Va. students, is authorized to remove editorial board members. The board has been approved by U-Va. publications and radio stations with the exception of the Cavalier Daily.
Hereford, under orders from the Board of Visitors, told Cavalier Daily managing editor Richard F. Neel Jr. he was "extremely disappointed" by the paper's refusal to recognize the Media Board. In doing that, the president said, the paper was refusing to bow to the university itself.
"I am not prepared to allow the Cavalier Daily to operate in defiance of the authority of the Board of Visitors," Hereford told Neel in a letter delivered yesterday. "Accordingly, permission to use university space and equipment is withdrawn."
Neel responded by declaring: "We're going to do our damnedest to get the paper out. We will definitely come out tomorrow. After that, I don't know."
Neel said the editorial board could not "in good conscience" recognize the control of the Media Board.
"Freedom of the press doesn't stop with college newspapers," said Neel. "We have to protect our First Amendment rights."
Jerry Cox, a third-year law student and former editor of the university's Law Weekly who is informally advising the editors, said, "The Media Board could prevent the newspaper from digging up stories that make the university look bad. It could have a chilling effect on the willingness of editors to pursue stories."
In a telephone interview yesterday, Hereford said, "The newspaper is saying, 'We don't recognize any authority over us." That's the only issue. I really think I deplore this more than he [Neel] does."
William L. Zimmer, chairman of the Board of Visitors, denied that the paper's First Amendment rights were being violated and emphasized that the university-including the Cavalier Daily-is a state-run institution and controlled by the board.
Adding to the dispute was the newspaper's refusal to reinstate a former staff member, John Davies, who was fired recently. The Media Board contended that Davies, a member of Young Americans for Freedom who was a Cavalier Daily reporter, was fired for his political beliefs.
Some students also said yesterday that Cavalier Daily articles concerning a black undergraduate who filed a libel suit against the school were embarrassing to the university.
"We've done stories in the past which were considered controversial," said managing editor Neel. "But we're not interested in confrontation. We're interested in protecting our rights."
Neel said the paper operates on a $200,000 annual budget from advertising revenue and student activity fees and is distributed free.