In a superbly bureaucratic and short-sighted move, Wesleyan University’s student government is cutting off their student newspaper at the knees without even the decency of saying why.
The Wesleyan Argus, an undergraduate student newspaper that’s published since 1868, will lose a dramatic amount of their funding due to a resolution passed by their student government last Sunday.
This decision follows the publishing of a controversial op-ed in September that criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.
The student government cited the reduction of paper waste, and a desire to give more attention to other publications, as the reasons for reallocating over half of The Argus’ current budget. This funding will instead be distributed among other publications based on their popularity on social media.
When this decision follows so closely after an op-ed that sparked outrage and demands among activists for action by the student government, it’s hard to believe that this budget cut has nothing to do with the article.
Putting aside the obvious flaws of the opinion, disagreeing with the views of one staff writer is no reason to take action against the entire publication.
Everyone benefits from having a space where facts and opinions can be freely expressed and circulated without the fear of threats. When those opinions are wrong we can openly decide their illegitimacy, instead of surreptitiously avoiding the topic altogether.
But making funding dependent on popularity mistakes the entire purpose of a student newspaper, which is a place that’s editorially autonomous from its financial status.
And if the paper is expected to give more space to a diverse range of staff — which they’ve said they’re committed to doing — the loss in revenue will make it difficult to take on staff from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
The student government’s action sets a dangerous precedent. It sends a message that’s far more detrimental than the op-ed itself — that difficult discourse isn’t welcome. If they wanted to straightforwardly make the argument that the op-ed revealed editorial untrustworthiness at The Argus, there would be merit to that discussion.
But the student government has changed the problem so their resolution fails to address what’s really at stake.
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