Why liberal Wesleyan students are boycotting the school newspaper

Students at the Middletown, Conn., college circulated a petition demanding that the school cease funding The Wesleyan Argus newspaper.

Michael Melia/AP
The Wesleyan Argus student newspaper is displayed Thursday, on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. The student government for the liberal arts school is weighing a petition to strip The Argus of funding after some objected to an opinion piece it published on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wesleyan University is a prestigious campus known for its progressive culture. So it is surprising to many that the school is now embroiled in a contentious censorship battle as some students demand that the century-old newspaper be shut down.

The story began two weeks ago, when an opinion piece questioning the Black Lives Matter movement was published in The Wesleyan Argus. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

I talked to a Black Lives Matter supporter, Michael Smith ’18, who recoiled when I told him I was wondering if the movement was legitimate. This is not questioning their claims of racism among the police, or in society itself. Rather, is the movement itself actually achieving anything positive? Does it have the potential for positive change?

Students who objected created a petition now being weighed by the student government, which states that The Argus has failed historically to be inclusive of minorities' voices and demands that copies of the paper on campus be recycled. The petitioners also want diversity training for all student publications, and argue that funding should be withheld until their requirements are met.

The Wesleyan Student Assembly discussed the petition on Sunday, culminating with Kate Cullen, president of the assembly, saying in a prepared statement that it would host another forum on the petition this weekend.

But Executive Editor Gabe Rosenberg told the Associated Press that the paper is looking into arranging outside financing. 

He said the newspaper is committed to improving its diversity issue but he disagrees with opponents' tactics.

"I totally agree the newspaper is not a perfect place. We just cannot support their methods," Mr. Rosenberg said.

University President Michael Roth agrees. In a statement titled "Black lives matter and so does free speech," he and two other administrators condemned what they described as harassment of the author and of newspaper editors.

“Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. 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.

The topic of “ ‘free and unfettered’ speech is increasingly coming up against a new generation of students, some of whom have an expectation that they have a right not to read or hear ideas that differ from their worldview or make them uncomfortable,” The Christian Science Monitor previously reported. “What began in the 1990s as political correctness – a desire not to offend others – has now morphed into what one academic observer calls 'empathetic correctness' – a desire never to be offended.” 

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why liberal Wesleyan students are boycotting the school newspaper
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today