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Saturday, December 20, 2014

UNM 125: Thunderbird is suspended; officials fire staff members

Phrase on cover brings U order

Printed April 5, 1951

UNM’s literary magazine, the Thunderbird, was suspended Friday by University administrative action, and its staff was prohibited from working on student publications for one year.

The move took the form of a memorandum signed by Dr. Sherman E. Smith, director of student affairs, Dean of Men Howard V. Mathany, and Lena C. Clauve, dean of women. University President Tom L. Popejoy added the words “I concur” at the end of the memorandum.

The action came as a result of the cover of the Thunderbird’s March issue distributed last Thursday. On it was the phrase “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” The statement was falsely attributed to Louisa May Alcott.

Canceling the May issue of the Thunderbird, the order ends the jobs of the magazine’s editor, Edward Abbey; George D’Alonzo, its business manager, and Staff Members Warren Kiefer, Bob Riddle, Pat Yenney, and Dana Bodie.

Kiefer was elected Thunderbird editor for the next year at a meeting of the Publications board Thursday, and the new action will scratch his name from the post.

Immediatley after seeing the cover Thursday, Dr. Smith said, he phoned the University printing plant and ordered the issue held. Thunderbird staffers called Dan Minnick, plant manager, and received what they said was a noncommittal answer. They then talked plant employees into releasing the copies. The Thunderbird began campus distribution at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The matter became an issue at the Publications board meeting that afternoon, when Dr. Smith said that his action was not a ban. He said it was a bid for time in which to talk with the magazine’s staff.

“It is our opinion,” Friday’s memorandum states, “that the publication of the March Thunderbird represents at best a complete disregard for discretion and will reflect adversely on the prestige and standing of the University.”

“The Thunderbird has long been an occasional source of embarrassment to many students and friends of the University,” the memorandum goes on. “Whatever its literary merits, it has frequently fallen short of the common standards of good taste.” The order says.

Of the distribution of the magazine, the memorandum comments, “This action constituted a breach of faith and a violation of the confidence of the staff of the printing plant, which has always extended the ‘freedom of the plant’ to the staffs of student publications.”

The memorandum calls for a reconsideration of the Thunderbird next fall, when student publications will be governed by a revamped Publications board under the new student constitution.

Thunderbird staff members declined comment on the memorandum.

Kiefer may still write his column in the Daily Lobo, Dr. Smith said, since columnists are considered as contributors and not staff members.