- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Wesleyan University student government has voted to slash funding for the school newspaper following widespread criticism over an op-ed criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

The resolution, passed Sunday by a vote of 27-0 by the Wesleyan Student Assembly, cuts the $30,000 annual budget for The Wesleyan Argus in half and redistributes it among the campus’ five publications through the creation of 20 work-study positions in student media.

Junior Alex Garcia, who introduced the proposal, said the resolution was aimed at reducing paper waste and attracting “students of all backgrounds into media,” but the effort was widely viewed as an act of retaliation against the 147-year-old campus newspaper.

“Questioning ‘Black Lives Matter’ costs student paper $17K,” said conservative website Campus Reform in a headline.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth issued a statement Monday warning that “any decision about student publications made in the wake of a controversial op-ed should be understood with real caution.”

Mr. Roth added in a Tuesday post on Twitter: “I believe students will realize it’s a big mistake to cut newspaper funding, and they can find ways to support alternative publications.”

The uproar on the Middletown, Connecticut, campus was touched off by sophomore Bryan Stascavage’s Sept. 15 opinion piece headlined “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think,” in which he sympathized with some of the movement’s goals but criticized it for “the vilification and denigration of the police force.”

Two days later, the newspaper issued an apology, saying the article contained “flaws,” and promised to run a “Black Out Issue” written only by “students of color.” Even so, the damage was done.

Students launched a petition campaign accusing the newspaper of failing to “provide a safe space for the voices of students of color” and calling for a boycott, along with demands that the newspaper staff complete “social justice/diversity” training and reserve front-page space for “marginalized groups/voices.”

“I know change will take time, but by passing this proposal we can’t say we didn’t try to make the concrete structural changes necessary to start addressing the problem of diversity and inclusion in publications,” said Mr. Garcia in an online video on behalf of the resolution.

The Argus editorial staff had urged the student government to vote down the resolution, saying that the editors had participated in “Social Justice Education Training,” and that “we are in the process of developing a new Editor of Equity and Inclusion position, as well as new outreach programs.”

“These initiatives can’t transform The Argus right away, but transformation takes time,” said the editorial. “This is where the resolution fails: It is reactionary and therefore disregards its broader implications.”

Other students and alumni criticized the newspaper for what they described as caving to political pressure.

“As a former editor on the Argus, I am troubled by this apology,” said Rebecca Schiff, class of 2001, in a comment on the newspaper’s website. “You work on a newspaper. It’s a dinky, barely readable newspaper, but it’s still a newspaper. Reporters and editors have fought for the freedom to say what they want in many countries, including ours.

“You don’t need to apologize if people disagree with an op-ed that you print,” she said. “Apologies like this reflect a totalitarian culture that you must fight. I say this as a left-winger who strongly supports Black Lives Matter.”

The Argus publishes twice a week with a paper distribution of 3,000 copies, which would be reduced to 2,400 copies under the resolution.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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