The petition argues that The Argus has failed historically to be inclusive of minorities’ voices and lists demands including diversity training for all student publications, disposal of copies of The Argus on campus and withholding of funding until they are met.
Positions should be created at the newspaper that count for course credit or work-study. In it he questioned the effectiveness, and to some extent the intentions, of those rallying for justice under the BLM banner, asking: “is the movement itself actually achieving anything positive?”
Organizers of the petition declined to comment to the Argus because they are boycotting the paper, according to the Argus.
Meanwhile, the editors of The Wesleyan Argus appeared to bend to the student pressure responding in a lengthy editorial, which reads in part: “The op-ed cites inaccurate statistics and twists facts…As Wesleyan’s student newspaper, it is our responsibility to provide our readership with accurate information”.
Frank LoMonte, director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, said battles with student newspapers are more typically led by members of school administrations or Greek organizations, but the Wesleyan case follows a trend on American campuses toward protecting people from things they find offensive. Any publication that panders to its readers and publishes in its opinion section only commentaries that are so gutless that everyone can agree with them is doing a disservice both to those readers and the institution of the press.
Brill and Morgan noted, however, that “The Opinion section is open to any writer who wants to share a view, whether or not the Opinion editors and the editors-in-chief agree with it”. “While we strive to make articles as coherent as possible before publication, we edit opinions for style rather than content, even if they are unpopular, controversial and widely contested”.
Wesleyan Student Assembly President Kate Cullen said Wednesday that a petition was submitted but that there is no resolution on its demands now being considered by the student government.
Just a few days later, on September 20, at the Wesleyan Student Assembly open forum, members of the senate discussed a petition calling for the boycott of The Wesleyan Argus and revocation of its funding.
President Obama also tackled the issue during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, referencing petitions to dis-invite guest speakers who previously made controversial remarks.
The opinion piece unleashed a firestorm of criticism, first directed at Stascavage and later at the school newspaper and its editors. “We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views”.
Wesleyan president Michael Roth and two other administrators wrote a joint statement about the controversy. “As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended”, said the statement.
“From our Constitution and Bylaws, we have no standard procedure for hearing student-initiated petitions”. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.