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UMass Feminists Occupy Office To Protest Newspaper Policies

By Ruth Kogan

Fifty women took over the offices of the student newspaper of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at 2 a.m. yesterday, demanding that women's news receive more coverage in the paper.

The protesters, who were still in the building last night, said they will not leave until their demands are met in a "legally binding document."

The students are demanding guaranteed space for women's news, editorial control over women's stories and the right of women's staff members to pick women's news editors.

William Sundstrom, the editor-in-chief, said the paper will probably not change its policies "because news should be integrated, not segregated."

Let's Talk It Over

Members of the paper, which is operating from a different location on campus, are currently negotiating with the women. Sit-in leaders said yesterday they decided to occupy the building when provious negotiations "accomplished nothing."

"In the past, women's news staff attempts to provide high quality coverage of women's issues have been consistently sabotaged by staff members of other departments," Julie Melrose, women's editor and a sit-in leader, said yesterday.

She alleged that the staff arbitrarily cuts news stories about women, censors feminist editorials, omits articles submitted by women, runs sexist ads, and harasses female staff members.

Michael Smolens, sports editor and one of the paper's negotiators, said yesterday the newspaper covers women's issues fairly, adding the protesters are upset because the news "lacks a feminist bent."

The only time he remembers that the staff censored a feminist editorial was when the editorial attacked staff members by name, Smolens said.

Because the paper is student-run and student-funded, "the university will maintain a hands-off attitude unless life and limb is threatened," a spokesman said yesterday.

The UMass-Amherst senate has issued a restraining order asking the women to leave the building or face arrest.

Protesters have said they will not leave, adding, "We'll just have to be arrested."

Women occupied the building two weeks ago, but left when the paper's staff agreed to some of their demands. Last week protesters picketed in front of the building and circulated petitions criticizing the paper's policies.

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