B.U. Exposure

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The b.u. exposure was a student newspaper at Boston University during the 1970s and 1980s that received national press coverage for exposing the moral, fiscal and managerial irregularities that characterized the administration of the university under President John Silber.

The 1970s[edit]

John Silber was appointed president of B.U. in 1971 and immediately began to attempt to quash the dissent that made the campus known as "Berkeley East" by implementing an authoritarian management style alien to most top American universities and colleges. He began scaling back the freedoms enjoyed by the students and faculty, and one of the areas he targeted was the student press.

Harvard University Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz advised Silber to cut all funding for student newspapers. By denying all funding to a student-run press, Silber could prevent university money from going to one of his harshest and most effective critics while hedging the issue of the students' First Amendment rights. (Silber would later do a similar end-run against Title IX by eliminating B.U.'s football team.) The other mainstream student newspaper, The BU News, had its funding cut off after it published a cover story in April 1976, "Has Silber Gone Too Far?" The article described how the Silber administration diminished the power of the BU student body. Silber cut off all University advertising, and the News folded within 18 months.

A newer, kinder-to-the-Administration version of The Daily News was reconstituted and allowed to rent office space on campus and to accept ads placed by the university and student organizations. The bu exposure, however, was forbidden any support. Silber went so far as to have any allocations made with student funds by student organizations to the bu exposure vetoed by the appropriate college deans. This went as far as to forbidding any student organization from buying advertising in the exposure.

The exposure, through its BU Friends of the exposure organization, fought back against the Silber Administration. In October 1977, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM), in a letter to John Silber, threatened to take legal action for withholding exposure funds in response to the paper's criticism of the BU administration. Stephen M. Kohn of the Friends of the exposure cited CLUM's letter as "probably the most significant factor in student rights in years." (The Daily Free Press [independent B.U. student newspaper, established, 1970], November 1, 1977). CLUM followed through, filing a lawsuit in January 1978. The student-run bu exposure collective also filed a lawsuit against Silber, the B.U. Board of Trustees, and Dean of Students Johan A. Madson, charging that their First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press had been abridged.(Boston Evening Globe, January 30, 1978)

The bu exposure scored a coup against the Silber Administration when it revealed in March 1978 that B.U. had taken "advanced payments from Law and Medical School applicants as a precondition to admission". The revelation came from a transcript of a 1973 meeting of the Select Committee on University Needs. Silber denied the exposure's allegations that it was selling seats at its law and medical schools, but the authenticity of the transcript was confirmed by the University on March 16. This led to national media exposure of the Silber Administration.

On February 14, 1979, there was a teach-in on the corruption of the Silber Administration at B.U.'s Morse Auditorium. The teach-in, which featured Professor Howard Zinn, was filmed by 60 Minutes. Zinn and other speakers issued a statement: "We declare our lack of confidence in the central administration and call for its replacement." On August 15, 1979. two bu exposure reporters were physically barred from attending a Faculty Senate meeting to hear Silber's response to the teach-in's vote of no-confidence. The reporters were barred by Dean of Student Life Madson from attending the meeting, who declared to the reporters that "There is no student press" at B.U.

The campus was being roiled by a strike of professors seeking labor union recognition for the American Association of University Professors and a strike by clerical and technical employees represented by District 65, UAW. District 65 was the first union to beat the union busting firm of Modern Management Methods, hired by the Silber administration to bust District 65, when David Schaff, both a member of the Union and the bu exposure collective beat 3 Ms to the punch by characterizing the union-busting firm as "outside agitators."

When the professors' strike was ended but the strike by the other employees went on, five professors, including Zinn, refused to cross the picket lines. They were targeted by Silber for termination and became known as the "B.U. Five."

The 1980s[edit]

1979 was the high-point for dissent against the Silber administration. Early in January, the much-anticipated 60 Minutes episode aired. The episode, headlined by Mike Wallace, shocked the dissenters at B.U. by being pro-Silber. The piece featured an interview with bu exposure staffers, whom were denounced as "shorts-pants communists" by Silber during his on-camera interview with Wallace. Wallace portrayed Silber as a tough man, in a tough job. Zinn, who also was interviewed by Wallace, later said that his own crew didn't seem to like or respect Wallace, who had an imperious air.

During the 1980s, the exposure continued to reveal wrongdoing by the Silber Administration, particularly its links to local organized crime in its real estate acquisitions. Silber managed to survive a vote of no-confidence by the faculty Senate when the Board of Trustees, marshaled by Board Chairman Arthur Metcalfe, rallied to Silber. The lack of funding and the dawn of Reaganism eventually doomed the exposure, which folded during the '80s before being resurrected later in the decade.


  • David K. Colapinto, Esq.
  • Stephen M. Kohn, Esq.
  • Alyce Wittenstein, Esq.
  • David L. Schaff, Esq.
  • Tinker Ready, journalist and adjunct faculty, Boston University College of Communication


  • 60 Minutes on BU and John Silber, 1979 [1], 1980|[2]
  • Boston Phoenx article on The Student Underground, Boston University's radical student newspaper
  • The BU exposure Available: Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center Closed Stacks (S73b BU Ser )Author: Boston University. Student Union Subjects: Boston University. Student Union Newspapers ; Boston University Newspapers,Publisher: Boston, Mass. : Boston University Student Union Format: v. : ill. ; 2943 cm..Creation Date: 1976 Language: English Source: ALMA BOSU1 Note: Description based on: Nov. 2, 1976; title from caption.