N.U. Firing of Hare Krishna Sparks Newspaper Furor

An editorial in The Northeastern News denouncing the university's associate dean of students for his firing of a teacher who is a Hare Krishna follower has prompted efforts to make the paper fully independent from its publisher, Northeastern University.

Richard E. Sochacki fired Steven Schiller, a member of the Hare Krishnas just one half-hour into the first meeting of Schiller's vegetarian cooking class January 27 because he and three fellow devotees, who were helping to teach the course, were all wearing their religious dress, Bob Croce, an assistant editor of The News, said Thursday.

Two of the five students enrolled in the non-credit course protested to the university about the firing, Jimmy LaJoie, managing editor of the weekly, said yesterday. A friend of Schiller, who is now in India, said some of the students were quite upset.

On February 24, the paper ran an opinion piece written by LaJoie which made reference to Nazi Germany and criticized the university administration and, in particular, Sochacki for the handling of the affair. Sochacki threatened to sue the newspaper but dropped the idea because it would have meant suing his own university, Croce said.

"In retrospect, I would have [handled] it in a different way," Sochacki said yesterday. In the past decade every major university has been inundated by the Krishnas. Sochacki added, saying he had probably overreacted.


There were several letters to the editor in the latest issue of The News, incensed about LaJoie's "unprofessional" article, Sochacki said. He added that the paper should start to police itself.

"The article is now the issue," LaJoie said, "and not the firing." The paper's budget, controlled by the university, is being reduced, he added, claiming that a proposed new publishing board would only act as a censoring board.

Plans to make The News completely autonomous are being considered, although they are still up in the air, LaJoie said. "I would welcome such a move," Sochacki said, adding that he has no vendetta against the paper. "You can't throw out the baby with the bath-water," he said