Censorship of University Monthly (December 1917)

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Date(s) of occurrence: December 1917 - May 1919
Randolph Harcourt Bennett, 1916. UNB Class Composite & Group Photographs Database.

Origins: An editor of the student publication The University Monthly (precursor to The Brunswickan), Randolph H. Bennett, published an issue which contained multiple articles which insulted the Faculty, Chancellor, and Senate of UNB.

Account of events: The articles in question were "Keep the Ball Rolling" written by "Overseas"; "Editorial Comment" written by Randolph Bennett; and the verse "Carman" written by Cecil M. Matheson. The identity of "Overseas" was never revealed, having been told to Bennett in confidence, and during the Senate investigation Bennett refused to give the author's real name, stating only that the the writer was a student not yet graduated at the university. Another article entitled "Follies of Social Life" also drew ire, though Bennett asserted that the text was mostly copied from an older publication with some of the work original to him. Matheson's piece had been circulated among the student body prior to December 1917, but he did not submit his piece to The University Monthly, and upon learning of Bennett's intent to publish his verse, he did not object.

A special meeting of the Senate was called on February 27, 1918, with the express purpose of investigating and punishing the students involved in the writing and publication of the "highly objectionable" articles. At the time there were three senior editors of The University Monthly who rotated the duties of Editor-in-Chief each month. A special Senate committee determined that Bennett was solely responsible for the publication of the issue and that he was also the author of several defaming articles. They also determined that Matheson was guilty of allowing his verse to be published as well. The committee recommended that Matheson be suspended for the rest of the academic term and that Bennett be expelled from the university. These actions were supported unanimously by the Senate.

Randolph Bennett had a great deal of support from his family, with his father and brother writing to UNB president C. C. Jones to plead his case: he was in his last year of study and due to receive his degree in Spring 1918, making the punishment of expulsion too severe. Bennett's father also appealed to Premier Walter E. Foster, who requested a meeting with Jones to discuss the matter. These actions had no effect on the Senate, nor did Bennett's own letter in December 1918 apologizing for his actions and asking for his sentence to be reconsidered so that he could re-enter the university in January 1919 to complete his last term. Senate member J. M. Robinson also supported Bennett's return, believing that the student's recent military service had instilled a "new attitude of life and authority" in Bennett. The Faculty refused Bennett re-entry and gave no reason for their decision, a decision which disappointed members of the Senate in Saint John. Henry Seabury Bridges, a former professor at UNB, expressed his disappointment with the Faculty for refusing to reconsider Bennett's case; despite calling Bennett "perverse, wilful and rebellious", Seabury believed that the good record of two of Bennett's elder brothers at UNB and a charitable feeling of mercy should resolve the issue.

The Senate and Faculty had a great deal of support in the community however, including that of the Supreme Court Chief Justice J. D. Hazen, who approved of "strong measures for the enforcement of discipline." Others also supported them by writing C.C. Jones to express their approval of the Senate's handling of the situation. Time proved in Bennett's favour however, and by early 1919 Premier Foster was once again petitioning Jones to reverse the punishment, suggesting that the hardline Faculty must "forget and forgive a little." Indeed, by this time members of the Senate were in agreement with the Premier's opinions, but the Faculty and Jones were insistent on refusing to allow Bennett re-entry to the university. Moreover, the Senate did not wish to overrule the Faculty.

In April 1919 Bennett approached Fred Magee, an alumni of UNB and member of the legislature, with his case and Magee put pressure on Jones to reinstate Bennett, declaring that such a decision would be "very popular with a few of us in the legislature." This subsequently led to the Faculty and Senate agreeing to review Bennett's case and after another letter from Bennett to the Senate on May 12, the Senate resolved on May 15 to allow Bennett to return to UNB and finish his degree pending his good behaviour. Randolph H. Bennett returned to UNB for the winter term and graduated with a B.A. in May 1920.

Note(s): There is currently only one known intact copy of the December 1917 issue of The University Monthly available; all of the duplicates in the Archives and Special Collections holdings, as well as the microfilm copy, have had the contentious articles removed.

Source(s):

  • The University Monthly (UA RG 84), December 1917.
  • The University Monthly [microform], December 1917, LB3621 .U55.
  • The University Monthly (UA RG 84), May 1920, p. 225.
  • Senate Minutes (UA RG 40), Book 4 (1904-1927), p. 382-388, 394, 414-416.
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); 1918; File 1; 1.1413, 1.1414, 1.1415, 1.1426, 1.1428, 1.1487.
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); 1918; File 2; 1.1502, 1.1506.
  • President's Papers (UA RG 136); 1918; File 3; 1.1613, 1.1614, 1.1637, 1.1638
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); 1918; File 4; 1.1712.
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); 1919; File 1; 1.1771.
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); 1919; File 2; 1.1950, 1.1951, 1.1952
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); 1919; File 3; 1.2172, 1.2173.
  • [UNB Class Composites & Group Photographs Database]


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