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Monday, Feb 26, 2024

A More Inclusive Campus

On Feb. 15, a group of cultural organizations sent an email to the student body in protest of The Campus. They called upon this publication to make a number of changes in order to remedy the institutionalized silencing of marginalized communities at this school. We addressed many of the issues raised in our editorial, “A Paper for the People,” released on that same morning. We stand by our conviction that, as Middlebury’s sole student newspaper, we must continue to be a space for all opinions — including opinions that have the potential to offend and opinions that we do not agree with. But the lingering hurt and distrust between this publication and a number of students on our campus renders this conversation incomplete. Last week’s events have caused us to pause and reflect on our role as an outlet for student opinion. We will focus on creating ways in which The Campus can become a more inclusive space ­– an initiative we are proud to take on with the input of the student body at the forefront of our minds. This process will take time, but we are determined to see it through.

Following the all-student email, The Campus reached out to all of the groups who co-signed. We asked to meet with these organizations to discuss ways we can make this paper more inclusive. We are looking forward to meeting as a group and working with these cultural organizations towards actionable solutions to the concerns that have been raised. We want to use this editorial to address those concerns head-on for the benefit of those who will not be at the meetings between The Campus and the cultural organizations, as well as to continue this conversation in the direction of progress and change.

First, the letter calls on The Campus to, “place explicit and clearly visible disclaimers on op-eds and guest contributions stating that the publication does not share the views of the guest contributor, online and in print.” We want to reiterate that there is already such a disclaimer in the masthead of the paper that explicitly states that reader contributions do not reflect the opinions of the board. To clarify, an “op-ed,” short for “opposite the editorial page,” is traditionally a piece written by an author unaffiliated with a publication’s editorial staff. Nonetheless, to avoid future confusion, we have decided to add a disclaimer to the top of the Opinions page, clarifying that reader op-eds do not reflect the opinion of the board. This disclaimer will also be added to the online version of the paper. Likewise, a content warning for the op-eds within this section has been added to the area under the masthead, cautioning that some content could cause emotional distress.

The letter also asked The Campus to “create a foundation for collaboration with cultural organizations to create an inclusive journalistic forum, which instead of sensationalizing black and brown pain, produces accurate, thoughtful and anti-racist work.” We disagree that The Campus sensationalizes the pain of our peers. But we do agree that our board suffers acutely from a lack of racially diverse voices. This deficiency calls our credibility as a publication that reflects the entire student body into question. The Campus is worse off without significant diversity in the room. When writing “A Call for Compassion,” an editorial on race and cultural appropriation, our Editor-in-Chief and an Opinions editor sat down with BSU representatives to ensure their perspective was incorporated. This meeting was incredibly helpful in shaping our editorial. But the fact that it needed to happen speaks to the lack of diversity of our board. We need to work harder to ensure that a range of voices is represented on the board at all times, working across all sections of the paper, and not just when we find it imperative to seek it out for a certain editorial.

Finally, the letter implores this publication to recognize the historical whiteness of journalism and to amplify the voices that have been silenced. Most institutions in this country were founded on the bedrock of whiteness, a fact that we do not intend to refute. While we cannot change the contexts we were handed, we do have control over the direction in which we progress. This paper may be the product of white hegemony, but it does not have to continue to be a space where the majority of contributors are white. Going forward, cooperation and diligent effort needs to come from all sides. We hope that students will meet us halfway by submitting op-eds or signing up to write for the paper so they can eventually rise the ranks to editor. We want and need a diverse array of voices in our pages. As a board, we will work to create a more heterogeneous environment. While the paper’s relative homogeneity is not a product of intent, we wholeheartedly acknowledge that more can be done to make The Campus an open space.

The current conversation has developed an adversarial tone that we feel is not reflective of the ethos of this board. While we maintain that the student paper must remain a space for all voices — even if those very arguments go against our own beliefs — we also wish to heal the deep wounds that divide this publication from so many on this campus. We, the thirty individuals who comprise this board, are your fellow students who may sit next to you in class, live down the hall or stand behind you in line at Proctor. We are your friends and your peers. While we believe that our role as Middlebury’s only paper requires that we maintain neutrality when publishing op-eds – instead of advancing our own personal beliefs – we need to reflect on the power we wield. We hold a powerful microphone. As we grapple with the responsibility of this microphone, we look forward to working with cultural organizations to ensure that all voices have a chance to be heard. We hear you and we stand with you.