The Picket - A History
First published on Jan. 30, 1896, The Picket derived its name from sentinels – known as pickets – who stood watch along the Potomac River during the War Between the States (American Civil War). Its stated purpose was to serve “as a safeguard of student liberties.” In pursuit of this mission, The Picket achieved national attention in 1990 over the issue of student access to campus crime reports. The resulting controversy reached up to the Congress and eventually led to passage of a state law known as “The Picket Bill” requiring all public and private institutions of higher learning in West Virginia to keep police logs of any crimes committed on campus, and to make the information available to the public and the press -- or suffer penalties in court. At stake was the interpretation of The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), commonly known as the Buckley Amendment. Many schools, including Shepherd College, claimed that “educational records” included campus security reports. Editor Steve Rosa challenged college policy following The Picket’s report that a woman had been raped on campus during Labor Day weekend of 1990. When college president Michael P. Riccards took the newspaper to task for alleging a “crime wave on campus,” the editors noted that it was impossible to verify the facts as long as school officials refused to make security records available. Following an article in USA Today referring to The Picket’s struggle with the college administrators, then Sen. Joe Biden, D-DE., cited The Picket in debate on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In 1992, Congress confirmed that Buckley was not intended to prevent students’ rights to access campus security records.
Over the years, The Picket has reported on events large and small in the evolution of Shepherd College – now Shepherd University. In 1905, in an early example of political correctness, an anti-cigarette league created a nearly smoke-free campus – except, as an article of February 1909 noted, for “a few deadheads… whose only ambition seems to be to cause as much inconvenience… as they are able.” The Picket also recorded the effects of World War I and the influenza epidemic of 1919, causing classes to be cancelled for “nearly eight weeks.” Less than glorious was belated coverage of the integration of Shepherd College following the closing of Storer College, a school for black students located in Harpers Ferry. Storer closed its doors following the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. It took more than a decade for The Picket to note that Shepherd had benefited from Storer’s demise with a new scholarship fund and a valuable collection of library books. But when the unrest of the late 1960s erupted at quiet, conservative Shepherd College, The Picket inscribed the events for posterity.
In January 1912, The Shepherd Seal first appeared on the cover of The Picket, bearing the motto PLUS-ULTRA, translated as More Beyond, or, perhaps, Way Cool!
- The Picket, a History, by Dr. James Lewin, a former faculty adviser