A change in the name of the black student newspaper at the University of Maryland has stirred passions on the College Park campus and led several black student organizations to wage an advertising boycott and refuse interviews to the publication.
The twice-monthly, free newspaper previously known as the "Black Explosion" is now known as "The Eclipse," a name its editors say reflects the publication's unique perspective. Like an eclipse of the sun, said associate editor Gregory Wright, the paper "casts the world in a different light."
To members of the Black Student Union and the campus chapter of the NAACP, however, the name "Eclipse" says something altogether different. "Eclipse means to cover up, to block out light," said Edward Martin, vice president of the BSU. "It also means a disgrace . . . . None of that has any positive connotations for the black community."
In protest, Martin said, 11 black organizations on campus, where about 3,000 of the 29,000 undergraduates are black, are refusing to advertise in the newspaper. The organizations also have denied the Eclipse staff permission to interview their representatives, barraged the paper with letters and gathered petitions calling for another name change.
"I think the way they are doing it is wrong," said Wright, a senior journalism major.
He said the editors and staff of the paper didn't like the "Black Explosion," a name the paper has carried since it was founded in 1968 during a period of black awareness.
Martin disagreed. "The Black Explosion signifies a struggle blacks have gone through on this campus and in the country. That struggle is still going on."
He said the petitions will be presented to the board of Maryland Media, Inc., the independent, nonprofit corporation that publishes the largest student newspaper, The Diamondback, in addition to a Jewish newspaper, the Eclipse and other publications. That board approved the name change at its Sept. 3 meeting.
"Most of us did not particularly like the new name," said Carl Sessions Stepp, a member of the board and a journalism professor. "But we also felt influenced by the fact that the editors and staff of the paper felt so strongly."