We, the editors-in-chief, acknowledge the frustration, anger, pain, and fear that members of the student body felt in response to the op-ed “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think” published in The Argus on Tuesday, Sept. 15. We hear the community’s concerns about the piece’s treatment of police brutality and its implications about the lives of people of color. We sincerely apologize for the distress the piece caused the student body.
Yesterday, members of The Ankh’s staff arrived at our offices to discuss their outrage at our decision to publish the op-ed. They demanded that an editorial be printed on the front page of The Argus. Because this issue feels urgent and out of respect for students of color, we obliged; an editorial is running on the front page for the first time in institutional memory. Over the past few days, we have discussed the piece and its flaws with many students. These conversations have crystallized for us the immense impact of our editorial decisions. The opinions expressed in the op-ed do not reflect those of The Argus, and we want to affirm that as community members, we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Argus holds a position of power on campus in that it disseminates information to students, faculty, and community members. This gives us a responsibility to consider the implications of the articles we publish. We failed the community on Tuesday in many ways. The Opinion section, like the rest of The Argus, relies entirely on student volunteers to write its content. All Wesleyan students are welcome to contribute to The Argus. A promotion to staff writer, which is the position the writer of the Black Lives Matter piece holds, is not an endorsement of the writer’s views but rather a reflection of hir participation in the organization.
The Opinion section is open to any writer who wants to share a view, whether or not the Opinion editors and the editors-in-chief agree with it. While we strive to make articles as coherent as possible before publication, we edit opinions for style rather than content, even if they are unpopular, controversial, and widely contested. If it is a student newspaper’s mission to reflect the views and voices of the entire student body, then the Opinion section must be open to the entire student body.
That being said, we acknowledge that the way in which the op-ed was published gave the writer’s words validity. First and foremost, we apologize for our carelessness in fact-checking. The op-ed cites inaccurate statistics and twists facts. As Wesleyan’s student newspaper, it is our responsibility to provide our readership with accurate information. We vow to raise our standards of journalism and to fact-check questionable information cited in articles, including those in the Opinion section, prior to publication.
Additionally, the piece was published without a counter-argument in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement alongside it, and this lack of balance gave too much weight to the views expressed in the op-ed. We should have addressed the unevenness of the Opinion section in Tuesday’s issue prior to publication. In the future, we will carefully consider the context in which articles are published and work to represent a wider variety of views, even if this entails holding off on publishing a particular op-ed until we have appropriate material to run with it.
Representing more diverse views, backgrounds, and stories in The Argus is a goal we set for ourselves last semester, and while we have made progress in our coverage of student of color events, we still have a long way to go. Though The Argus is completely run by volunteers, its staff is and has long been primarily white. We recognize that because of this and in light of the Black Lives Matter op-ed, students of color may not feel comfortable or welcome writing for The Argus. Moving forward, making our spaces available to all students will be our top priority, and we want to enthusiastically encourage students of color to contribute to all of The Argus’ sections and to use The Argus as a platform to share their experiences and opinions.
We want to acknowledge that because editorial positions on The Argus are both unpaid and time-consuming, economic pressures affect who can devote time to the paper. The Argus has previously attempted to pay its staff members, but in recent years, the WSA and SBC have cut our student worker funding, rendering us unable to offer paid editorial positions. We plan to bring this issue up again at the upcoming SBC meeting and to talk to the University about making The Argus part of its work-study program.
We have begun to make efforts toward making the newspaper a safe space for the student of color community and plan to continue them with greater force. Our first step will be publishing a Black Out issue—an issue of The Argus written entirely by students of color—in the near future. We are committed to making space for the student of color population in this publication in the future, including creating a column to discuss issues of race and racism at Wesleyan. We will also strengthen our coverage of student of color events, beginning with the publication of a news article about the After Charleston event in the next issue. Other initiatives will include closer communication with relevant student groups such as The Ankh and better publicizing of The Argus in spaces that celebrate diversity. We have already begun conversations with the student of color community regarding the aforementioned plans.
This editorial will by no means correct our errors or heal the wounds that Tuesday’s issue created. As we grapple with the knowledge that we have caused our community deep pain, we reflect upon and reconsider the way our publication functions. The system under which The Argus operates is inherently flawed; we’ve made it our mission to examine these flaws closely and do our best to rectify them.