During the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s (WSA) open forum on Sunday, Sept. 20, members of the Senate discussed a petition calling for a boycott of The Wesleyan Argus.

During the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s (WSA) open forum on Sunday, Sept. 20, members of the Senate discussed a petition calling for a boycott of The Wesleyan Argus and the revocation of its student group funding. The petition will be the focus of a WSA-sponsored town hall meeting next Sunday, Sept. 27. This petition was sparked by a controversial article published in the Opinion section of The Argus last Tuesday, critiquing certain methods of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The undersigned agree to boycott the Argus, recognizing that the paper has historically failed to be an inclusive representation of the voices of the student body,” the petition reads. “Most specifically, it neglects to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color and we are doubtful that it will in the future.”

The petition, signed by 167 students, alumni, staff and one Middletown community member as of Tuesday night, further lists five demands directed at The Argus. The boycott will include disposing of copies of The Argus on campus and insisting that its funds from the WSA are withheld until the demands are met.

These demands include commitment by The Argus to create work study/course credit positions; a monthly report on allocation of funds and leadership structure; a required once-per-semester Social Justice/Diversity training for all student publications; active recruitment and advertisement; and open space on the front page in the publication dedicated to marginalized groups/voices, specifying that if no submissions are received, The Argus will print a section labeled “for your voice.”

In accordance with the boycott, organizers of the petition declined to comment further.

“On behalf of concerned Wesleyan students we are boycotting the Argus until the demands are met,” organizers of the petition wrote in an email to The Argus. “Therefore we are not available to comment or be quoted in any article published by the same newspaper that we are boycotting for supporting institutional racism.”

Paul Singley, President of the Connecticut Society for Professional Journalists, said he believes that student publications should make a concerted effort to represent the perspectives of all students, but its First Amendment rights should not be threatened by publishing unpopular views.

“That’s what a good newspaper does,” he said. “It shares ideas, it shares opinions.”

WSA President Kate Cullen ’16 and WSA Vice President Aidan Martinez ’17 commented on the matter as members of the Leadership Board.

“Aidan and I ran last spring on the platform of bringing equity and inclusion to the very core of the WSA and furthermore, to every part of campus,” Cullen and Martinez wrote in an email to The Argus. “In this vein, we are supportive of the push for a more equitable and inclusive Argus…. We hope that the cries for change from the students of color community will move The Argus’s leadership to action.”

“We know it’s not easy,” Cullen and Martinez’s email continued. “This past spring, we initiated a complete constitutional and tonal restructuring of the WSA to elevate marginalized and historically unrepresented voices that we felt so desperately needed to be heard on campus. Through genuine and dedicated work, The Argus can make this change as well. And for this reason, Aidan and I stand in solidarity with the student of color community in their efforts to make their voices heard.”

Three WSA Senate members, including Cullen, have signed the petition as of Monday night. Currently, no official legislation to enact the demands of the petition is being processed by the Assembly.

“We have no resolutions on the floor or in the works at this time,” wrote Cullen in an email to The Argus.

The 2015 WSA Constitution is currently unavailable on the WSA website, but according to the 2013 WSA Constitution, the Student Budgetary Committee—which provides funds to The Argus every semester for printing and distribution costs—may require any organization receiving funds to report at any time, and reserves the right to reassume any funding allocated to a group before the end of the school year. The Student Budget Committee (SBC) is also constitutionally responsible for making recommendations to The Argus, among other student groups.

Tess Morgan ’16, co-Editor-in-Chief of The Argus, said that continued conversations with the student of color community, along with the suggestions of the petition, have led to new initiatives to diversify the newspaper’s staff, including SALD diversity training. However, she said, The Argus continues to have questions about the implementation of the petition demands.

“As far as work study goes, that’s something in the past we’ve had funding for, but that’s been revoked, so that’s completely up to the SBC to give us that funding,” Morgan said. “It doesn’t seem likely on their part that they’ll give it to us.”

Cullen did not respond to a request to comment on the process through which the petition might be drafted into an official WSA resolution, how the boycott would be implemented, or how the demands relating to all campus publications would affect Argus funding.

Michael Ortiz ’17, who signed the petition, explained the impetus behind his support.

“My concerns with the Argus currently regard mostly its commitment to representing the views of the campus,” he wrote in an email to The Argus. “….That the Argus chose to give this man somewhere to share his disrespectful opinion and to then have the Argus and its staff members defend the publication, hiding behind the argument of ‘well it’s not my opinion but he’s allowed to have it’ is frankly a great disappointment. The Argus’ publication of this opinion is a silent agreement with its content, and a silent agreement to the all too prevalent belief that black [and] brown people do not deserve a voice, and that we are not worthy of respect.”

Singley further addressed the trend of defunding student newspapers due to disagreement with editorial decisions.

“I think it’s a dangerous thing when you have the people that are controlling your purse strings determining what kind of opinions you’re going to allow to be shared in your publication,” he said. “You shouldn’t be second guessing whether you should publish something that you certainly have the right to just because you’re going to lose funding. That’s an unhealthy situation.”

Rebecca Brill ’16, co-Editor-in-Chief of The Argus, said that The Argus is committed to repairing its relationship with the community but that she is concerned about the precedent being set by the boycott of the newspaper.

“We would love to work with the WSA on how to achieve diversity, but editorial independence remains a huge priority for us,” Brill said. “There’s an important conversation going on right now about The Argus representing the voices of all students; it seems counterintuitive to censor the voice of a student expressing their views, offensive as they may be to some. We will continue to publish even if we are defunded. It’s our responsibility to cover news on this campus and to represent our community.”

This article was edited to reflect that the petition was influenced by an Opinion article appearing in last Tuesday’s edition of The Argus, and to reflect that the item in question is a petition, not a WSA resolution. It was further edited to update the number of signatories of the petition. A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the petition had been signed by faculty members. 

  • shining.genji

    why dry have a link to the opinion piece that set this whole thing off?

  • David

    I think the Argus should report on the the widespread disgust across the nation about this petition. But wait a few days, because that disgust is growing. It would be instructive for the children who signed this petition to be told just how appalling it is for the rest of us when they act like schoolyard totalitarians. Also, we shouldn’t hold the children entirely responsible for what they evidently were never taught in high school civics or by their parents. Are there particular high schools where more of these petition-signers came from? Shouldn’t Wesleyan administrators ask those high schools what on earth they’re teaching in civics class or in whatever sensitivity training they convey to their students? Maybe a study could be funded where researchers ask parents what they taught these children. It would help us all to know just what went into forming these barbarians who were accepted into a highly selective university.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, the situation has gone viral. Good. Helps we the employers make decisions whether or not we want fragile blossoms in our employ.

  • John

    People who want to pull funding are whining babies. Grow a pair and quit wasting your mommy and daddy’s money on a useless education. You’re obviously not learning anything. AND you are clearly ignoring the First Amendment. And I’ll bet therefore you will only advocate what your liberal gods (Alinsky, Bernie) tell you to.

    I would say “what a waste of brains”… but you apparently don’t have any.


  • John

    Wow. Apparently my comment calling the “defunders” a bunch of whining babies was deleted.

    Again, I say: COWARDS.

    • Anonymous

      And again I will up vote your comment, John.

  • NoNonsense

    Spoiled, sheltered brats who are totally unprepared for the real world. And this college apparently isn’t helping to prepare them.

  • jean dumas

    Incredible, I read the article and as a black man I found it extremely good. I consider this petition one step shy of book burning. This petition is not about diversity, it’s the opposite, it’s about intolerance. Intolerance cloaked in the Orwellian term “Diversity”.

  • Havid Damburger

    Black leaderships produces ideas as ridiculous and insane as this one, then turn around and wonder why their culture is where it is. I mean just look at the stuff these people think and believe. There are small children in 3rd world countries with better awareness and decision making ability.

  • Man with Axe

    It would be refreshing to read a communication from a college student or group that did not contain the phrases, “marginalized people, ” “safe space,” “social justice,” or “institutional racism” just to name a few. Don’t these students have an original thought in their heads? Or is that too much to expect from students who don’t know what free speech means?

  • Man with Axe

    You know who is marginalized on this campus? The people who disagree with the progressive agenda. If this were a university worthy of the name the students would stand up for freedom of thought and expression, and demand the bullies, vandals, and thought police stand down.

  • ChupaMe

    Because if the SJWs disagree, it must be shut down immediately. The first amendment only applies when they agree with what’s being said.

  • ssilver

    These students are advocating censorship. And by refusing to comment further, they’re refusing to engage in constructive debate. Instead, they’re saying “so there,” taking their toys and going home.

    As an aside: It is a legitimate question as to whether this organization is making a difference–or at least a positive difference. In January, members of this group (all white, by the way) shut down a major Boston highway during a rush-hour protest. Let’s set aside these protesters’ assumptions that they assumed everyone inconvenienced that day was an ignorant suburban bigot who needed consciousness-raising about police brutality (they pretty much said this in their press release).

    The fact is, this activity delayed an ambulance transporting a patient to a Boston hospital, kept kids from getting to school and people from getting to work, and sent plenty of pollution into the air from all those cars stuck in traffic for 2+ hours. (How do I know this? I was there. Right in the middle of it. For the whole thing.)

    None of this has anything to do with racism. These protesters only raised awareness about themselves.

    It’s not “institutional racism” to raise questions about groups that conduct themselves this way. (That’s kind of like saying the accusations against Bill Cosby are racist because Cosby is African-American.)

    Instead, it is our right–and, I’d argue, our civic responsibility– to question things that seem questionable, even if doing so makes you unpopular, and to discuss them openly, freely, respectfully.

    Of course, once you raise those questions, you need to stand behind them. The newspaper ought to strive for a diverse representation of views, if hasn’t already done so. It should publish views opposing those of the opinion writer. Its editors may want to host one or more public forums on the topic.

    On the other hand, though, the protesters need to understand that true diversity sometimes generates opinions different than your own. When that happens, intelligent adults engage in dialogue, not threats to shut the other side down.

  • David Bach

    How nice to see that cowards in the student government are incapable of functioning in civil society. Typical “conform or be cast out”.

    Weep for our future. Orwell was right, and these people are too stupid to see it.

  • Anonymous

    The idea of a newspaper as a “safe space” is both hilarous and appalling.

    Really, coddled students are so afraid of hearing opposing views that they want to shut down others’ free expression? Poor little snowflakes.

    • Anonymous

      The whole notion of someone being owed their definition of a “safe space” is self indulgent fantasy. The real world is hard. There are bad people out there. Some of them will take a strong dislike to you, get in your way, or worse. Expressing how this makes you feel or indignantly demanding a safe space might carry some weight if you’re two, but after that, you’re on your own. Do any of these students seriously believe they can survive and excel in the real world this way? If so reality’s going to hit awfully hard after graduation.

  • thanks for making our job hard

    hey actis thanks for putting BLM back.
    now thanks to you more people are going to think BLM is just a bunch of book burners waiting for an excuse!

  • Lost In Translation

    What do they petition and fight for “agree speech” when the foundation of this country is based on free speech.

  • Laura Egendorf

    Once again, I am embarrassed to be a Wesleyan graduate.

  • brainy37

    Oh the irony of all of this. They feel that an article with a different opinion than theirs is “silencing” another group. So in order to remedy the problem they’re asking to the WSA to……silence the paper. That’s a really really scary precedent to set. They don’t even explain how BLM voices are silenced either. It seems that this is more about squashing opposing views under a guise of safety. Again we hear of “safe spaces” which is just a word for “echo chamber”. Again we see a group demanding that the laws force their members to hold seats with organizations despite not being voted in by their peers or making sure that others cannot compete against them.

    These idiots keep forgetting that many decades ago the idea of “negro education” was seen as very offensive. That the discussion of homosexuality was seen as obscene and didn’t deserve a platform. Morals and norms change over time as we’ve seen with those two subjects above. By setting this authoritarian (and technically totalitarian) precedent they set themselves up to fall when the winds of opinion shift. And they will shift.

  • Anonymous

    The “boycott” has involved taking and trashing newspapers and is no different from burning books. The purpose of both is to remove copies from circulation so others cannot read them.

    How would these students feel if the university defunded certain course they like because of a movement for ideological purity at the school? They’d object, rightfully.

    It’s sad, really, that some students do not understand that the free exchange of ideas and opinions allows for some they don’t agree with. Censorship can cut many ways, and they would be wise to remember that.

  • John

    Thanks, Obama. Thanks, “Reverend” Al Sharpton. Thanks for helping to set race relations back 40 years.

    • Crenando

      White people are too fragile to accept the existence of black people.

  • chowder

    I was really worried when I read that ‘Alumni and Staff’ had signed this ‘petition’ trying to silence any views contrary to their own but I’m encouraged by the comments posted here. As Orwell wrote in his book “1984”, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

  • Lamont Helvetic

    Did these “students” flunk grade school civics class? They should be ashamed of their actions, but I suspect they are honestly baffled to be told that they are on the morally indefensible side of this discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Right a rebuttal article. Otherwise move to another country/society that accepts physical intimidation over open and honest debate. The fallacy of asserting a claim of “rights” under constitutional principles you do not embrace is “mind bottling”.

  • Angelina Cox

    A recent five year span shows 400 officers of the peace died from beating by unarmed men. So HOW many have been killed by police in the news over the last year?

    A 300lb+ bully who successfully discharged the gun he almost got off the cop,

    A man who apparently JUST had major health problems in Baltimore

    And who else?

    • Angelina Cox

      If you don’t see black lies matter as a construct to destroy law and order you aren’t even looking.

      • Crenando

        “law and order” You mean white supremacist police violence and exploitation of communities? White people are so paranoid.

  • Braden J. #noriotaid

    Guess what SJWs, the REAL WORLD doesn’t provide “safe spaces”. Time to grow up and face reality.

  • MamaRea

    Kudos to President Michael Roth for reminding Wesleyan students that ideological diversity is part of the college experience, and that ‘there is no right not to be offended’. How many who’ve signed the petition to defund the Argus have actually read the Op-Ed piece? And of those who have, how many have actually thought about the posisiton it takes, rather than going with a knee-jerk reaction? Have the debate, THINK – or is it that the points made in Stascavage’s piece are really not defensible?

  • Anonymous

    Looks like the would-be censors have backed off after their ridiculousness gained national notoriety. I guess their convictions have limits, including how it might look when future employers google them. Oh, social justice warriors, thy convictions are so frail.

  • Cromulent

    Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, until you disagree with the Left.

  • Anonymous

    Right thought, Right words, Right action. Stupid students in WSA.

    The student assembly would have done well in the Cultural Revolution. Rounding up copies of the newspaper and destroying them, defunding the paper over an editorial. The WSA needs to look back at this in about 10-15 years to understand how f**king stupid they look in demanding conformity of thought rather than working to create the social change they want.

  • Anonymous

    Those oh so tolerant liberals!!!!
    They love diversity…….just not diversity of opinion.

  • Jason Westerly

    I call for those who signed the petition to be expelled.