On Sunday, Oct. 18, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Senate gathered to discuss and vote on Resolution 3.37 “​Stipends, Academic Credit, and Digitalization for on Campus Publications.” After about an hour of consideration, the WSA voted to pass the resolution 27 to zero with four members abstaining.

The resolution was written by Alex Garcia ’17 and is co-sponsored by WSA Vice President Aidan Martinez ’17 and Student Budget Committee (SBC) member Justin Kim ’19. In its current form, the resolution will seek to reduce funding to The Wesleyan Argus by one half and redistribute it to other publications on campus in the form of paid worker positions and allowances for digital innovation.

The resolution comes in the wake of a controversial Opinion piece published in The Argus in early September. Following its publication, over 150 students, including WSA President Kate Cullen ’16, signed a petition calling for the defunding and boycott of The Argus until the publication enacts a series of structural changes.

Now that the resolution has passed, beginning in the fall of 2016 the WSA plans to implement 20 work study positions within a handful of student publications. The cost of those positions will be $15,000, according to the resolution, with an additional $2,000 planned for targeted Facebook ads and website improvements.

While the document states that “other funding sources may also be proposed,” the only currently proposed funding source is The Argus’ printing funds, which are renewed every semester by the SBC. The WSA plans to create a working group to decide the details of the resolution; this group will be spearheaded by Garcia and some members of the WSA Senate, and will be open to members of student publications.

The SBC is in charge of allocating money acquired through the annual Student Activities Fee, which is “set by students to support student activities” and charged as part of tuition, according to the University website. For the 2015-2016 academic year, that fee was $270.

The resolution suggests reducing The Argus’s annual budget by 57 percent, from $30,000 to $13,000, for the 2016-2017 academic year.

The Argus, which was founded in 1868, is recognized as the oldest twice-weekly student newspaper in the country. The current parameters of the resolution would place tight restrictions on the number of issues The Argus would be able to print each semester; an explanation written by Garcia and published on kaiwes.com suggests that The Argus print “only special edition issues.”

While the WSA pushed for an early implementation date during its Sunday meeting, President Michael Roth expressed hesitation about reducing The Argus’s funding immediately following the campus controversy.

“I do think that any decision about student publications made in the wake of a controversial op-ed should be understood with real caution, and the concern about sustainable funding is not something that should… target… newspapers about which there are content concerns,” Roth said on Monday morning.

Roth also discussed the notion of sustainable funding as brought up at the WSA Senate meeting. He pointed to other groups on campus that receive large amounts of SBC funding.

“It may be the right thing to reduce the number of copies of The Argus or any other group, but if sustainability is going to become a filter for the WSA in a systematic way, I don’t think that’s where you would start,” Roth said. “I mean, the fund for Spring Fling is many times, I think, what The Argus gets, and I’ve never heard anyone [propose a reduction of its funds]. I am concerned, from what I heard in advance, that the [content] concerns get translated into other issues.”

Historically, the SBC supported a number of paid worker positions within The Argus, but it revoked this funding in the 2012-2013 academic year. The Argus continues to fund between nine and 10 workers through advertising revenue.

According to its description on the Kai Wes website, the resolution’s authors argue that The Argus must prioritize “people over paper.”

According to 2010 data, the University’s peer schools’ newspapers, including The Wellesley News, The Trinity Tripod, The Amherst Student, and The Mount Holyoke News, do not pay their writers or editors.

The WSA will hold another vote to decide on the remaining parts of the resolution either at the end of the spring 2016 semester or the beginning of the fall 2016 semester.

  • Figures

    Garcia Martinez kim thanks for making wesleyan look like a censoring joke.

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  • Johnny O

    Why stop at $13,000? Bring it down to $1,000 and be even more sustainy.

    • Atromaster35

      Unless it can be shown there was some attempt at defunding the Argus by The WSA prior to this year’s heated debate then the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that this proposal is directly linked to some student disapproval for the Argus printing of the charged opinion piece. Overall the amount of money at issue here is trivial. It seems a simple solution is for the Argus to appeal to the Alumni network for funding and to keep printing paper copies.

    • oneParty

      Haha, I’m totally stealing “sustainy”.

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  • Webber87

    These 27 kids are going to have a rough life. Mommy and Daddy can’t shelter you from other’s opinions forever. Fine example of Liberal Fascism.

    • Brooklyn Bum

      Fascism: an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.

      • Webber87

        Who believes the left/right spectrum?

        To tell me that 1930’s American Progressives we’re “right wing” with their love of Mussolini throws a wrench into the academic definition. Which is more closer to the truth. No “right wingers” from the 1930’s we’re pen pals with Nazi Party officials or their Italian friends like many prominent Early American Progressives (AKA – Left wingers)
        This is besides the whole “socialist” prespective.

        The historically held belief is that FDR was “left wing”. Take into account that FDR started the National Recovery Agency based(read about this fiasco) on Facist Italy/German policy, which he and everyone in his administration was fond of. Then tell me about “right wing” and “left wing”.

        Jonas Goldberg wrote a pretty convincing book call ‘Liberal Fascism’ a few years back.

      • Webber87

        ***Above was written on my small IPhone***

      • lspanker

        I see you had no real point to make…

      • Max Payne

        “Fascism is the pursuit of a transcendent and cleansing nation-statism through paramilitarism.” (Mann, op. cit., p. 13)

        Definition of terms:

        · Transcendence: Belief that the state can transcend social conflict and blend all social classes into a harmonious whole. Belief in the power of political ideology to transcend human nature and produce a better world.

        · Cleansing (ethnic): Favoring one or more ethnic or racial groups over others, either by granting special privileges or imposing disabilities; deportation of ethnic minorities, or worse.

        · Cleansing (political): Silencing the political opposition so that the transcendent aims of fascism can be realized. Restricting the freedom of speech, outlawing opposition parties, imprisoning political opponents (or worse) and indoctrinating youth in fascist principles.

        · Statism: Promoting a high degree of state intervention in personal, social, or economic matters. Belief that the state can accomplish anything.

        · Nationalism: Belief in the inherent unity of a population with distinct linguistic, physical, or cultural characteristics and its identification with a nation-state. Belief that the nation possesses special attributes that make it superior to other nations in some or all ways.

        · Paramilitarism: “Grass roots”, populist squadrism aimed at coercing opponents and obtaining popular approbation by acting as a supplementary police force.

      • Anonymous

        Right wing? LoL

      • Johnny Alpha

        Beautifully adopted now by those on the left. Thanks.

  • Alex Garcia ’17

    Pretty fair article, though a bit misleading. I’ll post three points here and those that are reading them can decide for themselves what they think.

    1. A detail people seem to be missing is that the Argus would probably be getting around $25k a year under this proposal (a $5k reduction). There would be just less funding allocated to print and more to people costs.

    2. I never signed the petition that came out last month calling for the boycott of the paper nor would I ever do so. Free press and speech is so important.

    3. The quote from Roth regarding content concerns is a bit confusing. I think it reflects his general concern that any sort of proposal would have their nuance lost in the national media. To address that, I’ve granted interviews to almost any media outlet that has asked—and for the most part they’ve done a great job of looking at the issue holistically. Of course there are always a few exceptions.

    • Anonymous

      People aren’t “missing” anything. Like the petition that tried to cast destroying newspapers as a “boycott”, this resolution takes half of Argus’ budget away and then claims it’s being done to make Argus better. The fact that you can serially make these dishonest claims with a straight face says more about you than you understand.

      • Alex Garcia ’17

        I think you’re only hearing what you want to hear.

        If a year long assessment of actual print readership is not enough to determine the amount of copies we should be printing then I don’t know what is.

        The resolution proposes studying taking some amount of what students currently allocate to printing and using it for website and people costs instead. Again, there’s a whole year of research and student input before that decision is even made.

        If the Argus is confident in their print readership numbers then there isn’t anything to be worried about is there? Otherwise, I’m not going to shy away from saying we will use data to make an informed decision next year about the amount we should invest in print versus the amount we invest in web and people.

      • Anonymous

        I’m hearing you just fine, and unfortunately going with “sociopath” instead of just “disingenuous”. Allowing the student association (whose president had the astonishingly poor judgement to sign a petition advocating destruction of offending newspapers) to dictate how Argus will operate (or not) and then pretending that’s “investment” is patently dishonest and utterly transparent.

      • CoryIntheHouse

        Because clearly “distribution” is the number one concern of college newspaper. Not say, fostering campus conversations, helping train new journalists, etc etc.
        you’re completely full of crap

    • Ethan Hoffman ’14

      Alex, I’m not sure Roth’s concern is about the effects of your resolution outside of campus. At least, there’s a good argument to be made about potential negative effects on campus.

      Let me just say I have at least some anti-Argus credentials–I was a ‘lead’ editor at the Hermes for a time where I defined our editorial interests to be “anything that wouldn’t fit in the Argus.” Simply put I’m not a big fan of the Argus.

      Here’s the thing: if you want to amplify voices that don’t get heard nearly often enough, this isn’t the way to do it. If this resolution hurts the Argus’ ability to do what it wants to do (and print journalism is something it wants to do, regardless of how valuable you think it is), then this resolution will inevitably be seen as being, at least in some sense, punitive. Punitive for publishing content that was unpopular and offensive.

      I’ve seen a lot of people like you on campus state that overhauling the Argus has nothing to do with Brian Stascavage’s article. And it shouldn’t. But, nevertheless, it does. There’s simply no way the political will to make reforms would have arisen in the absence of Brian’s half-baked article. As you say, this is what both Roth and the national media see. But it is also what many students will see. Many students will get the sense that if they publish unpopular (conservative or otherwise) opinions or offensive material, political momentum will swell against them and some rationales will be crafted to damage their publication. Given the timing, there is simply no way to avoid most observers from making the appraisal that your resolution is a veiled punishment, and if you really care about this reform and about free speech, as you say above, the only conscionable way forward would be to call for a moratorium on this reform for at least a semester, when attention to Brian’s article won’t color any decision-making in the process of reform.

    • Mark Wallach

      You appear to be a hypocrite in a long line of Wesleyan student government hypocrites–study up on Jon Barlow, the head of the Student Body Committee (which was the Wesleyan “student government” in 1967) to learn about your illustrious predecessors. If you were really interested in doing a reassessment of the student tax-funded budget, you would do that–not punish The Argus for publishing an opinion piece you didn’t agree with. “Free press and speech is so important”–do you listen to yourself?

      • L

        It is possible that he is just a fool, not a hypocrite. Give him a break.

    • Mark Sirota

      Alex-

      There are two things, reality and impression. Seems like neither of them are with you on this one.

      In reality, if this were really about reconsidering the role of print student journalism in the digital age, then this process would have started with…wait for it…the student journalists. Frankly, it is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the focus and mission of student groups at Wesleyan to be dictated by the WSA. In my experience, student groups define themselves, and the WSA chooses to fund them and at what levels based on factors including the numbers of students who are involved in the activities and their contribution to campus life. If the Argus should be doing less print and more digital, the impetus for that should be coming from the Argus staff. The opposite approach championed by you in this case in which the WSA uses the power of the purse to force student groups to change their focus or approach seems inconsistent with WSA tradition, at least the tradition with which I’m familiar. But even assuming that use of the funding power by the WSA to alter the practices of a student group is considered legitimate at Wesleyan, the idea of an entirely top down approach in which the WSA takes an action like this without preceding it with a process of dialogue with the student groups is simply over the top. Imagine if the administration treated students the way the WSA is treating student groups. My point is that the reality of what you are doing and how you are doing it is in no way normal or innocuous, and it is not credible to suggest it is unconnected to the censorship issue that has been raised.

      Beyond the reality is the impression the action of the WSA has left. Whatever may lie in your heart, nobody…nobody…believes you. And even if your proposal had been motivated by the purest intentions, even if you had sincerely believed this was an appropriate and legitimate process for moving campus publications to be more digital, doing it at this time was boneheaded. The actions and statements of various students on campus this semester in opposition to a free student press is hurting Wesleyan’s national reputation.

      • johnwesley

        Actually, you would have to go through a lot of conceptual contortions to argue that the WSA isn’t the publisher of the Argus in every sense of the word. That whole “let the employees decide what’s best for the paper” stance doesn’t fly in the real world.

      • Mark Sirota

        The WSA isn’t the publisher of the Argus in any sense of the word. And Wesleyan isn’t the real world. And Argus editors aren’t employees. The University collects a Student Activity Fee as part of tuition and has chosen to allow the WSA to allocate money to student groups. At least as far as I’m familiar with Wesleyan, the WSA did not consider the power to allocate the activity fee to student groups to include the right or responsibility to control those groups or direct their activities. In other words, the WSA has never considered itself the publisher of the Argus any more than it considered itself the head of any student ethnic organization, any student political organization or any other student group. It’s obviously a delicate balance to fund groups based on their contribution to campus life without trying to control or direct the groups, but the WSA has handled that balance, at least until now. If the WSA doen’t dial back it’s ill-advised decision, and the University desires to see the student activity fee fund student led groups, as opposed to WSA-led groups, the WSA’s tampering with the longstanding status quo could result in the University reconsidering the system for allocating the student activity fee.

      • johnwesley

        We agree that Wesleyan isn’t the real world. If, as you posit, The Argus doesn’t have a real publisher, that puts it and other newspapers where community members are essentially taxed in order to support it, in a unique journalistic position. Is it any wonder there is no roadmap out of this situation?

      • Mark Sirota

        It’s a student newspaper. There are lots of them. They’re a subset of something called a student group. Lot’s of them too. All over the place. Not unique. The roadmap is the student body in the first instance and the university in the second deciding how much control they want the WSA to exert over student groups. Students will most likely focus on the autonomy of their own groups, the university on what it sees as its mission and how a student gvernment exercising censorship over the school newspaper will affect the school’s reputation.

      • johnwesley

        There’s also something called, free elections. Or, have people become complete cynics about them, too?

      • Mark Sirota

        You’re missing the point. For decades, the WSA has done it’s best to follow a few principles. It has supported a free student press and it has avoided interfering with the operation of student groups. It has done it’s best to allocate funds to groups based on the interest of students in them and their contribution to campus life in as neutral a way as it can without itself taking ownership of or responsibility for the groups that it funds. I think you — and I’m guessing the members of the WSA as well — don’t appreciate the implications of their radical departure from that approach.

      • johnwesley

        I think the argument has shifted to one of procedural fairness. Frankly, I think it would come as a surprise to most people, including many students on campus, that the WSA doesn’t have some form of bottom-up budegetary process in place for allocating student fees every year If taking this kind of initiative is as radical a departure as you claim it is, the solution is as old as The Republic itself: vote the rascals out.

      • Mark Sirota

        This isn’t the real world. This isn’t a real government. This is a university. And it’s not that simple. I think you’re underestimating the damage the students are doing to the school’s reputation nationally. For example, high school student journalists who are interested in pursuing journalism in college and perhaps beyond, could have their college choices affected by this. I doubt the WSA members have even considered the various implications of the path they’ve started heading down.

      • johnwesley

        So, you concede that this has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with impressions?

      • Mark Sirota

        Not at all. I explained in my initial post that this has to do with both. It is highly doubtful that this WSA move was unconnected to the calls for censorship, and all in all events seeking to implement these kinds of changes to student publications in a unilateral top down manner, without a prior consultation process with the publications would have been inappropriate.

      • johnwesley

        In your universe, which admittedly is nothing like the real publishing world, no one holding the purse strings, not the SBC, the WSA – and certainly not the administration – may interfere in the way The Argus is run. According to you, the only real stakeholders are the people who write for it or work for it. According to you, any attempt to initiate change that does not have the prior approval of The Argus is tantamount to censorship. Is that about right?

      • Mark Sirota

        Funny you mentioned the administration. Since, successive Wesleyan administrations over many decades have made no attempt to censor the Argus no matter how critical the Argus may have been of them, and the only move to censor the student newspaper has ironically come from students.

        In any event, you’re conflating two issues. The first is what role if any the WSA has in being an agent for initiating change in student groups. That is a question that is broader than the Argus. If the WSA appropriately has such a role, then it has that role and should play it across the 90 some odd groups it funds. And if it has that role and plays it, it should do it in an appropriate manner. Heck, even the government goes through the motions of holding hearings and seeking input from interested parties in considering legislation and regulations. I didn’t say anything about “prior approval.” I mentioned that prior consultation would have been appropriate.

        The second is the question of censorship. The fact that this issue has come up at this time and this manner at the WSA reeks of censorship. If in fact this issue had already been taken up by the WSA months ago, and the timing and content of the WSA resolution was entirely coincidental, then I stand corrected. But I doubt that’s true.

        And it is “nothing like the real publishing world”. And it’s not my universe. It’s Wesleyan University.

      • johnwesley

        I wish I could comment on the WSA “going through the motions” of the approval process. The Argus chose not to report on them.

      • Mark Sirota

        I said in my original post that there are two separate issues. That is the opposite of conflating.

        The Argus article we are commenting on says that the WSA “resolution comes in the wake of a controversial Opinion piece published in The Argus in early September. Following its publication, over 150 students, including WSA President Kate Cullen ’16, signed a petition calling for the defunding and boycott of The Argus until the publication enacts a series of structural changes.”

        The sponsor of the resolution, who has posted a number of comments in this thread, described the article as “pretty fair.” In that post and his subsequent posts he didn’t even hint that this was in the works prior to publication of the opinion piece in question. Unless it was, any process the WSA purports to be going through is a sham from the inception.

      • johnwesley

        Okay, now you’re just playing devil’s advocate. The Argus publishes twice a week. This controversy has been going on since September. That ex-post facto summary of what supposedly went on for nearly a month does not even come close to what the student body, indeed the rest of the onlooking “real” world, deserved in terms of local coverage.

      • Mark Sirota

        I’m not playing devil’s advocate. I obviously can’t speak to the quality of the Argus’s news coverage. But given that the Argus freely publishes columns by virtually anyone, and has it’s website open to comments by anyone, I assume if this proposal was already on the agenda and wasn’t prompted by the opinion column in question, we would have heard it loud and clear by now. Is it true that before the WSA considered this resolution, certain WSA leaders had signed a petition calling on people to steal or destroy copies of the Argus?

      • johnwesley

        Is that directed at me? All I know is what I read in The Argus.

      • Mark Sirota

        Me to. Someone made that comment further up in this thread.

      • Anonymous

        Mark,
        You’re attempting to make a rational argument in the face of someone who is only here for an argument. Mr. “Wesley” will keep producing smoke and straw men until you give up in disgust, which you probably should have done several posts ago.

      • johnwesley

        Maybe that attitude explains why black people don’t like to write for The Argus.

    • Wes ’15

      Alex, Do you see that there’s something decidedly and hilariously fucked up about you, a member of the governing body who is deciding the fate of this newspaper, deeming whether an article is “fair” or “unfair”?

      The WSA is continuously saying, “hey, wait, this isn’t about content itself, it’s just about the medium,” when there is just no proof of this. Why hasn’t there ever been a whisper of eliminating printing from the Argus’s budget? No one is buying that this isn’t a punitive measure, especially when the President of the WSA signed a petition specifically stating that the Argus should be defunded because of its content.

      The scope of the Argus is important on an institutional level in that it covers a range of topics no other publication does with a level of editing that doesn’t exist anywhere else (by the way, re: kaiwes, it should read “Printing Fewer Copies” in your headline). It prepares its writers and editors for careers in journalism in the only serious journalism program at Wesleyan, academic or otherwise. I’m not sure how you’re letting one terribly misguided op-ed lead you to grab the pitchforks, but I would encourage you to reconsider.

    • great

      oh look its PC principle.

    • John Doe

      Alex, you and the Yale protestors are superb examples of why the liberal left will collapse in on itself. You claim to uphold “safe spaces” and claim that you are open to discussio, yet your actions speak otherwise. You seek to take a large amount of funding away from a publication that disagrees with your views. Not only does this go against every single thing college stands for (intellectual spaces where all sides are debated in a safe setting) but you are becoming the very thing that you learned about in school: totalitarian despots. It amazes me that you think you stand for journalism when you actively stamp out any opposition. Shame on you and your entire “student government.” The only thing your “student government” seems to actually do is punish and silence those with opposing views. You will be very shocked to learn that, in the real world, not everyone holds your views and that you may in fact be wrong every once in a while.

      Also, as a final piece, actually aligning yourself with a political movement and not taking a neutral stance to promote intellectual conversation speaks volumes about the quality of your newspapers and school.

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  • Anonymous

    Where is the Crowd Funding page? It’s possible that free-speech advocates could make the Argus the most well funded college newspaper in America.

    • Mark Wallach

      I like this idea. The Argus editors should take it seriously.

  • JS Gatekeeper

    If you really didn’t intend for this resolution to be looked at as punitive toward the Argus then you should have tabled it until the controversy over the opinion piece had died down. Also, given the actions of the Student Assembly president signing the petition, everything the Student Assembly is doing is speaking much louder than what you are saying. If anything should have actually been done by the SA, it should have been to speak out on

  • Anonymous

    Democrats = fascists

  • Mark Wallach

    The real questions for me are: (1) is the Administration really going to stand by silently and allow the free speech rights of students to be abrogated; and (2) is this outrageous action really supported by the majority of Wesleyan students, or are they simply such self-absorbed wimps that they are willing to let this go down without a fight? If there are students who care about such trivialities as the right of students to express themselves on campus, why aren’t they circulating petitions to stop this nonsense?

    • johnwesley

      I’m afraid The Argus did itself no favors by cleaving to a self-imposed blackout on coverage of the petition as it wound its way through the WSA process. People can’t get outraged by what they don’t know about.

      • Mark Wallach

        I’m sure you’re right. But what can we do to save The Argus and protect freedom of speech at Wesleyan? How about an alumni fund to make up the funding shortfall?

      • johnwesley

        There are various proposals floating around. However, there is a certain built-in irony in using 21st century methods of crowdsourcing to reach contributors who – by definition would be most familiar with The Argus in its digital version – in order that it should go back to its Gutenberg Bible version.

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  • Anonymous

    The Wesleyan Argus accepts donations directly

    http://wesleyanargus.com/donate/

  • Anonymous

    An act of moral cowardice. I wonder if any of the senate members will one day look back at their actions in shame.

    • Anonymous

      I expect some are already ashamed. There wasn’t a single dissenting vote. How many of the WSA who voted unanimously to slash Argus’ funding cast their vote because they were afraid of being tarred as racist or un-inclusive if they dared to express their actual opinion?

  • Disgusted

    This is shameful.

  • George Orwell called. He said to tell everyone at Wesleyan who has ever read his novel 1984, “I told you so.”

  • dconlaw1

    Threatening to remove the papers was a thug tactic. Giving in to it is contemptible beyond description.

  • Anonymous

    I am a parent of a recent Wesleyan alum. The money that I was going to donate to Wesleyan this year and for the forseeable future will go to the Argus instead.

    In a free and democratic society, there is only one response to speech you disagree with, and that is more speech presenting the opposing viewpoint. Defunding the paper, threatening to dispose of copies and the other actions of the student body in this case are the actions of despot governments, not the actions of students seeking a liberal arts education. Students needing to be protected from speech they find disagreeable is a concept that has no place on a college campus such as Wesleyan.

    • Leah Margaret Willingham

      Hi – I’m a student editor for the Mount Holyoke News. Our student publication is running a special issue about the funding and purpose of collegiate newspapers in the wake of this decision. I would love to hear more of your thoughts.

  • Mark Sirota

    According to the Huffington Post, the author of the WSA resolution admitted that the resolution was a response to the publication of the op-ed column. It will take a real effort by the various parties involved to start to remove the stain to Wesleyan’s reputation this situation has created. The WSA should start by reversing it’s vote unanimously and taking this item off it’s agenda at least for a year. The Argus editors could help by abandoning the conciliatory tone they have taken in response to the various attacks that have been launched against a free student press.

    “Garcia said the controversy over the conservative op-ed was “influencing,” but said it was not the sole reason behind his resolution to overhaul the funding of Wesleyan’s student publications.

    “It is related to the discussion, but it’s not a reactionary response,” Garcia said Monday. “It’s a
    well-thought-out and structural change.” ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wesleyan-argus-funding_56252cb0e4b02f6a900d2a1c)

  • Leah Margaret Willingham

    Hi – I’m a student editor for the Mount Holyoke News. Our student publication is running a special issue about the funding and purpose of collegiate newspapers in the wake of this decision. If there’s anyone who feels strongly about this, or would like to be included, please feel free to shoot me an email at willi25l@mtholyoke.edu.

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