"Southern Accent" Fights Administrator Censorship: A Student Perspective

On April 5, the Southern Accent, the student newspaper of Southern Adventist University, published a news article announcing a non-school-sponsored “Fight Night,” an off-campus boxing event hosted by Southern students. The university received backlash from parents and donors. It is unclear whether donors withdrew promised funds, as information from administrative voices has been conflicting.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2023/southern-accent-fights-administrator-censorship-student-perspective

Imagine the small-mindedness, the rudeness, and the narcissistic sense of entitlement of a person who would withhold the planned giving of $4m to Southern Adventist University because of a lecture given by an outside speaker.


Money talks, always. And, this can be a good thing too. If enough students felt that this college didn’t reflect their values and went elsewhere, the college would close. It’s a question of which supporters/constituents/attendees have the most financial sway over the administrative decision makers. We all vote with our dollars (i.e. I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby).


There is something to be said for printing on paper. Once published an issue cannot be re-edited by the administration of the university.

As the ‘faculty advisor’ to the Accent in the early '70s, I recall that such concerns were taken up by the administration with the faculty advisor, though I recall no such issue.

Also, being printed, the ‘circulation’ was largely confined to the campus. Absent social media and email, the university administration was much less troubled by the contents of the weekly Accent.

All that said, the administration seems not to have handled this Fight Night matter in its own best interest.

The case can be made that it would have been more effective of the administration to have supported the Accent publicly by making clear that neither the Accent nor the administration endorsed or is endorsing this event, and by noting that off-campus events in which students may be involved are simply not expected to be under the control of the university.

The case can also be made that after-publication censoring the Accent directly contributed to disappointed constituents feeling confirmed in their own mind that the university was actually covering up its failure to represent the will of the constituents.

It appears the university administration is backing away from an ill-advised censorship urge regarding the Accent. Based on this report, the university as a learning community seems to be serving the administration as well as the students and as intended.

This article gets to the heart of a dilemma all Adventist universities face. They value their reputations, face reputational risks, are held hostage by donors, and face widening gaps between their students and stakeholders. Southern is not alone. Although, perhaps no Adventist university has more carefully, consistently, and successfully burnished its spiritual reputation over the years. There does seem to be a bit of refreshing candor in this moment from the students. Young adults do not want to be used as poster children. They expect their voices to be heard, respected, and valued. The catch is that the era of social media has made it increasingly difficult for institutions to curate and control their image. This incident isn’t just about student journalism, it’s about the way the internet magnifies student journalism and all of the reactions to it. What Southern may have realized, to its credit, is that you cannot put a lid on student voices by censoring the student newspaper. Every student has a public platform in their hands and they are not afraid to use it. The era of hiding behind a shiny brand is over. The best we can do is to have open and honest dialogue with our students. And the $4 million donor? It’s not an anomaly. The institutions I admire let donors like this walk. No one needs their filthy money.


Since I was not familiar with Southern Adventist University’s students participating in a “Fight Night”, I looked it up to see what that was. Oddly enough, several years ago I sort of participated in such an event. A doctor from the clinic where I worked was asked to be the ringside physician for a teen fight night, and I was his assistant. The event was run by an after-school program designed to keep at-risk youths off the street and away from gangs by providing this more wholesome outlet for their athletic abilities. I met the kids, I understood their motivations, and concluded that it was actually an okay thing. Who knew? Of course not EGW approved, but then she didn’t live on the streets in scary neighborhoods (Southern Adventist University?) : >))

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I expect that there isn’t a single SDA College or University that allows for an unfettered free flow of ideas. From the restrictions they put on professors that prevent them from teaching their subjects as they see fit, to things like censoring a student newspaper, to the urge to make sure students are steeped in Adventism while they get their education, the free flow of ideas is not at all welcome.

It depends on how the schools are run. This statement applies well as a warning for anyone who wants to attend an SDA school, and many other “bible colleges” funded/run by churches. It probably doesn’t apply as much to Stanford or Harvard or Yale or the schools my daughters have attended, so far Chapman University, Lewis & Clark College, and Northwestern University - all schools that are not run by small minded religious organizations that insist on conflating their brand of religion with education - to the detriment of both.


And yet they still censored the newspaper. And over something as tame as an amateur sporting event.

They don’t seem to understand the sport. I wonder if any of the administration watch professional football, or rugby, or soccer? Basketball? Just like with those sports, boxing matches are not ‘fights’ in the same sense as a street fight. While there might be personal rivalries between boxers, generally speaking these are not fights based in anger any more than two rival football teams smashing into each other on the field are.


Basically, conservative Christian minded schools are not meant to be ‘open minded’, but are, by definition, schools of indoctrination. So when we talk about being ‘open minded’, one must talk about a new direction which will not happen or is it ever an intention by the SDA .org. By the way, when I started 1st grade in Collegeplace, WA, boxing was an allowed sport. My Dad wanted me to take the class but my mother didn’t.

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You make something that is complex sound so simple. I bet we could a situation where you might have donated but quit donating or would quit donating because they shifted in what they stood for or what was important to them.

From the article

“Quiles later responded, “May I remind you that alumni are not the ones attending this school now. Neither [are] the pastors, neither are the donors. We are. We are the ones that attend this school. We are the constituents that need your utmost attention.” Quiles’s comment was not addressed”.

The problem is that Quiles ignores the reality that they are able to get an education at this University is because someone else is largely funding that education. In addition Quiles was, as an adult not forced to choose Southern.

Not saying student voices don’t matter, they do, but i find it sad that there seems to be little appreciation for those who make that eduction possible. Who are suppprting this particular school because of what they stand for.

Imgine donating money to a liberal leaning PAC and then discovering that money had been used to fund Trump. How to imagine any donor would be okay with that.

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