After the events at University of Missouri and the reactions of the students here at Goucher, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on The Quindecim’s role on this campus. As a newspaper we are not here to tell you what to think—our job, as I see it, is to provide you with necessary information.
During the protests at Mizzou, a student reporter, Tim Tai, was blocked by a group of students and prevented from taking pictures. They linked arms and formed a line, pushing him and other journalists away from the area while shouting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, reporters have got to go.” Tai explained to the protesters why he was there. They continued to push back against him. One reporter recorded the entire incident and even managed to get inside before he was yelled at by a journalism professor, who called for some students to help throw him out.
I haven’t seen such a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment before. Honestly, what these students did, in my mind, is wrong. Many of the students accused Tai of acting unethically; some even threatened to call the cops on him. Yet, nothing that Tai was doing would fall into the realm of illegalilty. I thought that the students misunderstood Tai’s role, and that they were abusing their right to protest by physically intimidating him.
While I understand the need for a safe space, you cannot use that “right” to prevent somebody else from exercising their First Amendment rights. Stories like this one are a matter of public interest, perhaps even world interest. Journalists have the right to write about and discuss these stories. While I can understand the worry that these students might have, I have this to say: you cannot stage a protest in public and then ask for privacy. You cannot take part in an event like this and then expect that the media will not come. When you participate in this kind of event, you give up your right to privacy. I think that Goucher students and The Quindecim also misunderstand the First Amendment at times.
Sometimes, I feel as though one of the reasons that the Q doesn’t do more to cover events like these is because we don’t have enough people of color on staff. At times, groups on campus such as the United Students of Color Coalition can seem unwelcoming to some white students. They feel as though it isn’t their topic to write about, even if it’s just about their plans for the upcoming semester. When it comes time to cover these issues, it seems as though these articles only get assigned if there is someone of color in the room at the time of assignment. This point of view makes it difficult to cover such topics.
It’s ridiculous that people on campus feel as though they can only accept similarly-minded people into their discussions when these discussions are meant to be educational opportunities. For members of the press, it’s hard to find the line in such cases, especially at such a small campus where if you make a mistake, you run the risk of being ostracized.
The Quindecim’s coverage of racial issues on campus has been flawed and confusing. I admit to being part of this. Around a year ago, I wrote an article concerning the Black Lives Matter marches on campus, as well as several other articles focused on race. I thought I was knowledgeable enough about the issues, but I was wrong. I made mistakes. Neither I nor The Quindecim did anything to fix this.
There have been very few articles on race this semester. It has been mentioned in some news articles, but race was not the main focus of those articles. Having so few articles about race limits perspectives given on the topic. It’s is unfair to students who want to write about race but may have a different point of view. It’s also unfair to the readers, who are only getting one point of view of the topic. Yes, we need the voices of students of color, but if the same few people write the articles, then the articles have the same point of view every time, and sometimes the same students are being interviewed.
There has been a lack of diverse voices in the Q. The Q is missing conservative voices, LGBTQ+ voices, male voices, athletes and the like, especially in sections outside of Opinion. Personally, I think part of the issue is that we don’t offer tips or mini-writing classes to help students. It may be that some students feel that they are not capable of writing for the Q, and they choose not to. There may be other factors at play. But, if we want to be open to everyone, we can’t simply pick out random people and tell them to write. News writing, like essay writing, is something that needs to be learned and practiced. I think that’s also why, when students write, they often opt for the Opinion pages. We all know how to say what we want. It’s harder—and more time consuming—when you have to collect facts, schedule meetings and interview people.
I also feel as though we don’t reach out enough to other groups. Some of the other editors look for writers outside the usual ones, but more often than not, they appear to be their friends or close classmates. And that typically means that they share similar views. In an attempt to “make The Quindecim more open,” all that they have done is make it open to a select group.
I think part of the issue is that a few of The Quindecim editors take part in the protest events on campus as activists, and perhaps only publishing one dissenting opinion about those events. People who participate in events are less likely to accept other opinions, and maybe they are afraid of being labeled hypocritical if they allow a different view of events to be published. As journalists, it isn’t our job to participate in the events. We report on them.
Everything we write must be within the “status quo” of the school. I think they fear backlash if someone writes something criticizing the protests on campus. I doubt we would ever publish an article in which a student has an opposing opinion to the Mizzou support walk-out. I think that the Q fears insulting people or losing the majority of their readers by writing such a statement. While the former is legitimate, we need to understand that when we write, we write for all the students, and our paper needs to reflect that.
It may seem ridiculous, but until now, we haven’t published a single article on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since last year after controversy surrounding an article co-authored by two students occurred. That’s not to say that the student activist groups are completely innocent in the matter of free speech on campus either.
It is incidents like this that prevent Goucher from bringing in a greater diversity of public speakers. How many talks have we had this semester? And how many of them have shown different points of view? Which of these have happened because Goucher was afraid of how students would react? And why are we afraid to talk about diversity? And differing opinions outside certain classrooms?
Other student groups on campus are leery—and perhaps rightfully so—of having “others” in their safe space. I am not saying that we bring vehemently anti-gay, racist speakers on campus for the sake of diverse views. I am saying that, sometimes, speakers with backgrounds we may disagree with should be allowed to come here. Students should be encouraged to attend and engage in intellectual debate, especially if they don’t agree with them. Call them out if they say something derogatory, inflammatory or the like. Their presence as speakers on this campus would not negate your existence as a student.
We say that we are a campus open to new ideas and dialogue. To be honest, none of us has been very good about honoring that. Free speech and the free exchange of ideas needs to happen on this campus. We’re going to need to work together to make it happen. This is going to sound overwhelmingly self-promoting, but there is no better place to call for action than the campus newspaper. If you want to say something, write for us. We can’t change without you.