Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Last spring, around the time of my graduation from Choate, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What is it, exactly, that makes this place so great?” Soon enough, I landed on an answer: the constant encouragement from faculty and fellow students alike to consider a situation from all sides before thoughtfully and confidently expressing one’s views, regardless of their popularity and without fear of humiliation or retaliation. A recent event at my college, Wesleyan University, reminded me what a gift that is in today’s often close-minded world.

Lately, there has been significant controversy at Wesleyan over a recently published opinion piece in The Argus, our student newspaper. The piece, titled “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think,” questioned the legitimacy of the B.L.M. movement because of its connection to recent civil disruptions and outbreaks of violence around the country. The author cited some statistics that were misleading and, in some cases, wrong.

Since the article’s publication, much of the campus has been up in arms over it. There have been calls for students to trash all the copies of the paper. Some people have demanded that The Argus apologize and even retract the article.

In my opinion, the anger felt by many of my fellow students is unwarranted. It is never right to publish misleading or incorrect facts, yet the Wesleyan student body seems to be upset for little reason other than its most prominent student publication publicized a minority, controversial opinion.

Two days after the piece was published, The Argus ran a front-page apology, as well as articles countering the views of the original piece. For many students, these actions were not enough. Lately, a petition to defund the newspaper has been circling, and the Student Assembly will soon consider whether or not to act on that request. The petitioners vow to keep removing copies of the paper unless The Argus meets certain ridiculous demands—nothing short of intellectual blackmail.

Essentially, much of the student body has been upset by an opinion piece from a student with a minority and unfavorable point of view, and is demanding that the paper repress his words. In my opinion, the demanding of an apology from the newspaper—and the article’s retraction—only reinforces the idea that political correctness threatens civil liberty.

Whether you add a “more diverse” contingent of writers to the newspaper’s staff or throw away all copies of the paper, you are serving the same purpose: to censor the unpopular opinion expressed in the original op-ed. As a classmate pointed out, a diverse group of writers (based on a variety of traits, including race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) does not guarantee a diverse set of opinions.

I echo Michael Roth, Wesleyan’s president, who wrote in an open letter about the incident: “Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.”

Not only is there nothing wrong with a student putting forth his opinion, but, indeed, such a act is a vital component to intellectual honesty. My classmates and I must understand that even if something is offensive, we do not have the right to drown it out, especially in a newspaper that is supposed to represent the range of views that make up any diverse institution.

The United States was founded upon principles of freedom, including free speech. Whenever we try to silence opinions, we are silencing someone’s liberty. We cannot allow this.

Choaties, please listen: Each of you has the responsibility to stand up for the freedom of speech, including that of the press. I encourage you to speak up anytime you notice someone’s opinion being silenced. And never silence your own; you never know how powerful your voice can be.

­Sincerely,

Elliot Polur

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