A group of students and faculty members at Wesleyan University are petitioning to defund the Connecticut campus’s newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus, because “it neglects to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color.” According to an article in the Argus, the protesting group has also pledged to boycott the newspaper until its demands are met. Among them:
- Space on the newspaper’s front page should be devoted to submissions from minority voices.
- Positions should be created at the newspaper that count for course credit or work-study.
- Diversity training should be provided to members of all campus publications.
The Argus reports that the petition to strip the newspaper of its student-group funding was discussed in a Sunday meeting of the Wesleyan Student Assembly and that it will be the subject of an open forum on September 27.
The protest organizers did not provide comment beyond the text of the petition to the newspaper, citing the boycott.
The controversy was apparently sparked by an opinion article in the Argus last week that criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that it may have sparked violence toward police officers.
Rebecca Brill, a co-editor in chief of the Argus, is quoted in the article as saying she is concerned about the precedent set by a newspaper boycott. “We would love to work with the [Wesleyan Student Assembly] on how to achieve diversity, but editorial independence remains a huge priority for us,” she said, adding that the newspaper would continue to publish if it was defunded.
In a blog post on Saturday, Wesleyan’s president, Michael S. Roth, published a message he said he had sent, joined by the university’s provost and its vice president for equity and inclusion, to the Argus. It reads, in part: “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. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.”
The minutes of the student assembly’s Sunday meeting are available online.