Contributor, The Volokh Conspiracy

Laura Newberry (MassLive.com) reports:

In an effort to create a safe space free from potential insensitivity from the news media, activists at Smith College barred reporters from covering a sit-in Wednesday that drew 300 to 500 students.

The demonstration, organized in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri, was held from from noon to 12 a.m. Thursday in the Smith College Student Center….

“We are asking that any journalists or press that cover our story participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color,” [Alyssa Mata-Flores, a 21-year-old Smith College senior and one of the sit-in’s organizers] told MassLive in the Student Center Wednesday. “By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight.”

Smith organizers said journalists were welcome to cover the event if they agreed to explicitly state they supported the movement in their articles.

Stacey Schmeidel, Smith College director of media relations, said the college supports the activists’ ban on media….

Schmeidel said that as far as she’s aware, the sit-in was the first Smith event to bar media coverage.

The students of course have no power to bar anyone, since it’s not their property. Smith College is the entity that’s imposing the prohibition. Erik Wemple (Washington Post) quotes Schmeidel as saying that “the college merely respects the autonomy of the students to set the rules for their own event,” but I’m skeptical of that rationale, at least unless Smith is normally in the habit of ceding the rules for Student Center access to whatever student group wants to occupy the Center for 12 hours.

Thanks to Mary Keane for the pointer.