Even though this is America, and even though it's 2015, somewhere a student newspaper is not fulfilling its core journalistic role of protecting students' dignity and well-being.
The scene? The University of California at San Diego, which has become like unto a beach-adjacent sun-drenched hell for feelings.
The issue? It's . . . it's not really clear. It has to do with the UC San Diego Guardian being mean. It's election season, and elections and other occasions for free choice are notorious abbatoirs of self-esteem. Apparently the Guardian printed an opinion piece accusing some students on some slates — including former student senator Colin King — of "cyber-bullying" in connection with the election. Now, Colin King is a champion of free speech. Just ask him! Last year when someone challenged the practice of student election slates endorsing each other, he offered a strident defense:
King compared disallowing slates from endorsing each other to an A.S. Council dictatorship.
“We do not dictate the college councils for what they do,” King said. “I think that it’s really irresponsible on our part if we make an overarching rule and dictate free speech.”
So. Naturally, Colin King supports the Guardian's right to run such opinion pieces. He understands that controversial issues are best resolved through a marketplace of ideas, and that the remedy for disagreement or hurt feelings is vigorous response speech.
That's Bizarro-America Colin King. This is regular America. Here, Colin King has introduced a resolution for the UCSD Associated Students' April 15 meeting seeking to control or defund the Guardian.
You'll find Colin's resolution here. Though modest on a national scale — it's a proposal by one student, about one student paper — it's emblematic of a trend in modern college students. It's the Magna Carta of Me-Me-Me, the Ninty-Five Reasons You Shouldn't Be Able to Say That.
WHEREAS, the UCSD Guardian has a history of publishing inaccuracies and slander; and
Colin, unless the Guardian has a town crier it publishes libel, not slander. You could have gotten that distinction from Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is probably also unsympathetic to your feelings.
WHEREAS, these inaccuracies and slander have rallied students against the Sun God Festival, have negatively affected students’ well-beings, and have begun to negatively affect the campus climate; and
It's unclear whether "well-beings" means the well-being of multiple students, or whether each student has multiple well-beings, like chakras or something. The Sun God Festival is an annual event at UCSD against which one apparently ought not speak, or write.
WHEREAS, the Principles of Community state, “We affirm each individual's right to dignity and strive to maintain a climate of justice marked by mutual respect for each other;”2 and
WHEREAS, the UCSD Guardian has explicitly denied students on our campus the right to dignity by releasing private and/or inaccurate statements about specific students on this campus, while including their names; and
The right to dignity means the media shouldn't write about you by name. Colin may or may not have borrowed this theory from revenge porn sociopath Craig Brittain.
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Associated Students of UCSD will not recognize the UCSD Guardian as the official student newspaper until a time that they are officially provided with a full-time staff advisor; and
Do you hear that Guardian? The Associated Students WILL NOT RECOGNIZE YOU. They will ROLL TO DISBELIEVE you. We, college students learning to be adults, demand that our student papers be SUPERVISED BY ADULTS.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Associated Students of UCSD encourages the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs to stop subsidizing the UCSD Guardian with student fees until they accept the offer to have a full-time staff advisor; and
AND YOU SHOULDN'T GET FUNDING UNTIL YOU STOP BEING SO MEAN TO OUR DIGNITIES AND SHIT.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the Associated Students of UCSD understands that this may seem drastic, but we hope that it will be resolved immediately and leave a lasting positive impact on print media on this campus.
AND ALL YOU OTHER PRINT MEDIA BETTER TAKE NOTICE OR WE'LL COME AFTER YOU, TOO.
Why is a petty gesture of attempted censorship notable? It's notable because it reflects a dangerous trend. Never doubt that the existence of Colin King and his ilk threaten not only the mild annoyance of the UC San Diego campus, but our rights. We rely, as a society, on shared values. Those values include the rule of law and freedom of expression. Never doubt how crucial they are:
What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.
There will always be a few Colin Kings. But a society made up of them is doomed.
Edited to add: A source has provided me with an email Colin King sent to the UCSD ASA listserv:
"First of all, if the Guardian were to receive a full-time staff advisor, the "healthy check on ASUCSD’s ability to collect and allocate student fee
dollars" would not be stifled, unless the Guardian decided to stop reporting on A.S. This resolution in no way silences student voices – the advisor role would just be there to also put a healthy check on the Guardian, making sure the Guardian fact-checks before publishing and they don't frame their stories in an inflammatory manner. If you look at our political system, for example, we have checks and balances. Similarly to how our government's form of checks and balances comes full circle, this form of student life should too (i.e. the Guardian checks A.S., A.S. checks the administration, and administration checks the Guardian)
Colin King thinks that "checks and balances" means the government has a check on the press.
Second Edit: Around an hour and a half after this went up, somebody circulated a revised resolution. This one corrects "slander" to "libel" and adds this paragraph:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Associated Students of UCSD believe in freedom of speech and believe that an advisor would assist in integral tasks of journalism, thus enhancing the Guardian as a news source, and would not limit students freedom to print what they desire;
No censor ever fails to say "I believe in free speech." In fact, here's a useful rule of thumb: if you are proposing a law or a rule, and you feel moved to defend it by saying "I believe in free speech, but . . . ." you are probably a censor.
Third edit: Apparently this revision was circulated before my post.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017