Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
May 3rd, 2005


Shooting the messenger

This month’s Blueprint issue, scheduled to be delivered at homeroom this morning, was confiscated by the administration. At issue was an image included as part of a Backside article by Joe Besl. According to various Blueprint staff members, the image depicts a statue of the Virgin Mary standing in front of a urinal. It was doctored up in Adobe® Photoshop®.

(Adobe and Photoshop are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.)

Because Joe was taking an AP Calculus exam at the time, another Blueprint editor had to read the article aloud to the administration, which includes Principal Mueller, who was cited as the article’s chief critic.

The article itself was generally well-received, as Mark Murphy noted that many who were present for the reading actually laughed at the article, and that Mr. Downie, the Blueprint’s moderator, was supportive of it and wanted to maintain his laissez-faire approach to moderating the Blueprint.

This is the second time in recent school history that a Blueprint issue has been withheld. In January 2003, an issue was confiscated under similar circumstances, regarding an article on a CamCom computer game that was deemed inappropriate. Unlike the previous incident, it is expected that the administration will require the Blueprint to ditch the hundreds of existing copies and print hundreds of revised ones.

Since I was taking the AP Calculus AB test this morning, I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy to see the image in context. That said, the image sounds like it was made in bad taste – at least to those of us who hold religious items like Mary statues sacred.

This was not, however, grounds for the school administration to censor (or even embargo) the issue. I stand by my position that the administration should treat us like adults and rely on expectations of maturity, not last-minute, draconian measures, designed to keep our virgin eyes (no pun intended, honestly) from seeing potentially inappropriate content.

We are students at a college prep school. In general, universities allow their student-run publications generous amounts of journalistic freedom. For the most part, this is also the case at St. X. But there is always that occasion when the administration wants to make an example of a particular article, to keep the Blueprint in check. According to Mark, this intervention is welcomed, as part of the necessary training for future editors. But making an example doesn’t necessarily mean censorship.

I suppose it was an inevitable turn of events that a student would publish something that would evoke the wrath of higher-ups. Mr. Ott brought up an interesting observation: he was disappointed that the controversy was over a Backside article, as opposed to real news. When you’re writing for a section of the newspaper that prides itself on being überly wacky and insane, it’s easy to overstep the standards that the rest of the paper typically abides by.

Joe told me some time ago that the Blueprint editors were actually considering three pages of Backside material for this issue, due to the sheer number of submissions. That would logically bode well for me, since I contributed to the submission overflow just a couple weeks ago. But it’s clear that people aren’t resisting the temptation to add to the massive joke that is the Backside, just as many couldn’t resist ruining Wikipedia’s April Fool’s Joke by compulsively adding to it.

Among the many joke proposals that I considered sending to the Blueprint staff this year, my favorite was to get the Backside to actually live up to its name: I would propose putting the jokes on every even-numbered page (i.e., every back side of every page) of the newspaper. Just to demonstrate how far out of control this phenomenon has become.

Regardless of whether the confiscation of this issue has any grounds, the root cause of these conflicts lies not in the administrations whims or those of the Blueprint staff; rather, it lies in the low expectations that we the student body place on the publication. We expect the Backside in every issue, just as some of us expect to see Survivor, the bane of all TV existence, on Thursday nights. It’s the first thing we turn to.

The Blueprint merely caters to our desires. It reflects the kinds of things that we in general like. We like easy laughs, not real news; not even “educated humor,” as Mark puts it. If the argument is that our school, a Jesuit institution, should uphold a certain standard, shouldn’t that standard be applied to the students body at large, not just to its hardworking media?

Please, everyone: don’t shoot the messenger.


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