Albion College’s student newspaper, The Pleiad, apologized Sunday after running a fake story saying Hillsdale College would close for administrative and financial reasons. The story ran on April 1.
The article, which ran in the April Fools’ Day edition of the paper known as The Plebian, said Albion College would absorb the majority of Hillsdale’s students after the closure and drew concern from Hillsdale alumni, friends of the college, and a prospective student. The article has since been retracted and replaced with an official apology.
The Pleiad’s managing editor, Alex Carey, who wrote the article, said one of the Pleiad’s staff writers suggested the idea.
“The idea came from a current situation, actually,” Carey said. “One of the middle schools near Albion is closing, so we took that idea and asked, ‘What if a college near us closed?’”
Carey said the story was not intentionally printed to target a conservative school or to cause problems. Considering Hillsdale’s proximity to Albion, it made sense for them to choose Hillsdale, Carey said.
For the most part, students at Albion and at Hillsdale saw the article for what it was — pure satire.
“Most of us know people from Hillsdale, so we all thought it was humorous,” said Albion senior Kate Casebeer, sister of Hillsdale sophomore Sarah Casebeer. “We figured that Hillsdale students would find it amusing, as well.”
Hillsdale’s Senior Director of Admissions Zack Miller said the admissions office saw the article online and knew that it was not meant to be factual. Despite this, Miller said he did receive a call from an admitted student who inquired about whether or not the story was true.
“There were a very small number of concerns,” Miller said. “Most people understood it was satirical.”
Not everyone at Hillsdale found the story to be amusing. Matt Schlientz, vice president for marketing, said the story did cause confusion for some.
“Because of that, we did reach out to John Thompson, the associate vice president for marketing at Albion, on Saturday to request the story be removed,” Schlientz said.
After Hillsdale’s marketing department contacted Albion, The Pleiad retracted the story Sunday, and the following statement replaced it: “This story was a part of the April Fool’s Edition ‘The Plebian’ and was, in fact, not true. The Pleiad apologizes for any confusion that may have been caused.”
Clare Kolenda, editor-in-chief of the Pleiad, said that she was the one who made the decision to retract the story after hearing that Hillsdale had reached out to Albion.
Carey clarified that the article was written purely out of the April Fools’ Day spirit and that no one foresaw the reaction it drew.
“We took the story for what it was, an April Fools’ Day prank,” Schlientz said. “However, given that online content lives forever and rather than risk any further confusion, we felt that the prank had run its course, and it would be best if the article was taken down.”
The momentary tension between Hillsdale and Albion over the jocular article also attracted national news coverage and was picked up from The Associated Press by media outlets across the country.
The vast amount of attention the article has received has come as a shock to the Pleiad staff, Carey said.
“We didn’t think it would get seen,” Carey said, “We definitely didn’t anticipate this much attention.”
The staff of The Pleiad apologized for the confusion the article caused. What began as a harmless joke was taken more seriously than they had originally intended, Carey said.
“I feel really bad,” Carey said. “We didn’t do it on purpose.”