By Dean Boerner and Gabby Vanacore | Co-Editors-in-Chief

A campus newspaper should act as a medium for ongoing conversations across campus. (Courtesy of @smc_collegian)

The response to two recently published articles in The Collegian, specifically “#MeToo and Time’s Up become witch-hunt movements” and a Letter to the Editor on the Saint Mary’s campus and contraception, have laid bare confusion and in some instances frustration regarding the campus newspaper’s publishing. This reaction has extended beyond mere criticism of each author’s respective arguments, to condemnation of The Collegian’s editorial practices as a whole. Therefore, an explanation of the paper’s operations, Letter to the Editor policy, purpose of the Opinion section, and reasoning behind these recent publications is due.

Many of those involved with The Collegian perform their tasks relatively autonomously. Staff and Contributing Writers decide what they want to write. While editors work to give advice to writers and may point them in various directions, they leave final decisions regarding what to write to the writers themselves. As part of a solely student-run paper, The Collegian’s editors don’t peremptorily assign stories to Contributing or even Staff Writers. The result is this: About half of the paper’s story ideas, and most of how those story ideas are dealt with, come about through writer discretion.

That brings us to The Collegian’s policy regarding these stories, which, while recently expanded upon and edited, is as follows:

“The opinions expressed in The Collegian’s opinion section are not necessarily held by the paper itself, or the majority of its editorial staff. In opinion articles and Letters to the Editor, The Collegian errs on the side of publication, not censorship, and wants to give voice to most concerned and free-thinking students or stakeholders in the Saint Mary’s community, not just a few. That does not mean all views will find a platform in The Collegian, as those its editors deem unworthy of publication will not be published.”

Most of all, the editors of The Collegian value a dialogue among those in the Saint Mary’s community and realize the paper’s place in providing a medium for this ongoing conversation. The Collegian serves this purpose across its four main sections, but nowhere more saliently or directly than its opinion section. It’s one section where students exchange their ideas on a variety of topics, from President Donahue’s communication with students to the benefits of the Philosophy department to, more recently, the nationwide #MeToo movement and the school’s decision not to provide contraception to its students.

The recent, arguably nonconformist approaches to the latter two topics that appeared in the March 20, 2018 edition of The Collegian have attracted the condemnation of many people in the Saint Mary’s community. Even with the operations of The Collegian outlined above, many of the decision’s critics would claim that these articles were unworthy of publication because of the inadmissibility of their views. Put bluntly, the argument goes that The Collegian should have refused to publish the ideas of writers who are critical of #MeToo or in favor of Saint Mary’s staying more traditionally Catholic, in effect censoring these views not due to the manner of their argumentation but due to the nature of the views themselves.

Now, one might argue that some right-wing views are inherently, unquestionably bigoted. Debating such a question raises philosophical and political issues beyond the scope of this editorial, but let’s assume for the moment that it is indeed the case. That would mean that all publications—The Collegian included—would refrain from publishing them, but it would also render articles extolling the virtues of left-wing ideas superfluous, like arguing people ought to be nice to each other or that killing people is bad. Now, on the other hand, one might argue that liberal ideology is as absolute as these axioms, just less agreed upon by society in general. However, wouldn’t the remedy for this disagreement be the public debate of these issues rather than the censorship of one side or the other? An individual person can make the assessment of certain right-wing views as unacceptable, but we would argue it is unfair and counterproductive to demand that a publication—one determined to act as an instrument for dialogue and progress—make that same assessment, especially with the institutional power it wields.

For a moment, imagine the implications of such a policy. Places where you would normally come across these arguments no longer present them. It follows that socially right-wing or nonconforming opinions would be shut out by platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, and other mainstream outlets. Minds go unchanged, opinions unchallenged, and we as a community go absolutely nowhere if we’re lucky, but polarization and partisanship likely worsen. No one’s mind gets changed if their opinions don’t get challenged; their opinions probably become more entrenched in your refusal to listen to them.

All of us mean to do well, and many of us probably figure to be on the right side of every issue; the opposite side often representing true bigotry. But none of us want to make the mistake of thinking that this is the case always and reflexively condemn anything and everything contrary to our beliefs as bigoted. Sometimes, our opponents on moral issues are truly bigoted, but often they are not. There’s something to be said for conviction in one’s beliefs, but it should not be a blind, uncompromising, nor militant conviction. To fall into this trap would be very easy and perhaps all the more counterproductive.

All students on campus are welcome to attend our weekly storyboard meetings Monday nights at 6pm in Dante 113. We are not an exclusive club, and you don’t have to be hired to write for us, as any student can either claim an article at the meetings or through email correspondence with an editor. Therefore, we invite and strongly encourage any student who wants their voice heard to be the voice you believe may be lacking in our paper.

While we don’t have set office hours, we are always eager and able to make ourselves available to meet with you in The Collegian office and further discuss these issues and others that may be concerning you. Specific questions about what The Collegian does deem unpublishable and how it reaches these conclusions may still remain, and The Collegian is open to further discussion on these questions, possibly in a forum that occurs before the end of the semester. If you wish to make an appointment, please email us at smccollegian@gmail.com or visit us in Ferroggiaro 206.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*