Recently, there has been a heated controversy regarding an ad that was submitted, but not published, in The Hurricane. While we’ve had other unpublished ads, this particular one raised enough questions that it led to meetings and debates among the students and administration. The newspaper took part in these deliberations, and several aspects from these discussions need to be addressed.
The problem of whether to publish the ad was poorly handled by all the parties involved – the students, the administration, and The Hurricane itself. We were all unaware of the correct policy and procedures to follow, which led to confusion and unrest among the students, contradictory feedback from the administration and pressure on the newspaper and its staff.
In retrospect, many things could have been done differently: fewer people could have been informed about the ad, a final decision could have been made before bringing in the student organizations and, of course, the Student Publications Board Policies and Procedures Manual should have been more thoroughly consulted before letting this issue get out of hand.
Yet, this controversy managed to unite the students rather than divide them. Several student organizations came together with similar opinions, and their voice was strong enough that it was heard throughout the administration and, in the end, influenced their final decision to not run the ad. It remains unpublished not because of a liberal media conspiracy, but because the students vehemently expressed their opinions and, ultimately, prevailed.
Still, we should keep in mind that it’s not unusual for these debates to arise in dealing with highly controversial issues. And, with the Presidential Debate coming to UM in the fall, we can expect more of this intense discussion to affect our campus.
Now, the million-dollar question: Should the ad have run?
There is no obvious correct answer.
Groups like the ACLU advocate that a university’s “mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study,” which can be achieved, in their opinion, with as much speech as possible: “When hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.”
Nevertheless, we’re a publication in a private institution, and our job is to serve the students. We must abide by a set of guidelines and take into account student input. So, regardless of whether we believe at this point that the ad should be published or not, the decision has been made, and it was made in accordance with the Student Publications Board Policies and Procedures Manual. We need to let this issue lie and move on.
However, there should be no pointing of fingers, no attempt to find someone to blame for this controversy being mishandled. This isn’t a battle between the administration and the students, between the administration and the newspaper or between the students and the newspaper. We’re all in this together, and we’ve learned our lesson.