Dozens of Former Wesleyan Newspaper Editors Sign Letter Defending ‘Argus,’ Free Press

December 8, 2015

More than 50 former editors of The Wesleyan Argus have signed onto an open letter expressing “deep disappointment and concern” over the decision by Wesleyan University’s student government to defund the paper over a controversial op-ed.

The former editors, whose combined presence at the paper spans nearly five decades, urge the Wesleyan Student Association (WSA) to reconsider a plan approved on October 18 that would slash Argus funding and significantly reduce its print presence on campus.

Outraged students called for a boycott and defunding of the paper after it printed Bryan Stascavage’s September 14 opinion piece criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. Some students said it was an example of indifference to racism on campus.

The former Argus editors—including such notable names as New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse, Forward Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner, CNBC’s Michael Santoli, and New York Times-bestselling author Laura Fraserwrote:

These cuts threaten the survival of an institution that was instrumental in shaping our collective college experience and that has, somewhat miraculously, been covering campus news without interruption since 1868. We are also disturbed by the events that led up to the proposed budget cuts and the threat they pose to free speech and freedom of the press at Wesleyan.

We are teachers, lawyers, doctors, scientists, government workers, corporate executives and investment bankers, among other professions. Many of us are also journalists at outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, National Public Radio, The Associated Press, Vanity Fair, the Forward and The Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Argus played a crucial role in our development as writers, leaders, critical thinkers, skeptics and justice seekers. We believe in nuanced argument and the illumination of the truth even if it means overturning preconceived notions about an issue or an idea. We also believe in the value of exposing ourselves—and our readers—to perspectives different from our own in order to learn and grow.

FIRE wrote to Wesleyan in advance of the WSA vote in October, asking the university to support the Argus, one of the oldest college newspapers in the country.

In late October, Wesleyan President Michael Roth wrote an editorial of his own in the Hartford Courant, warning students of the dangers of obstructing a free press. Roth wrote:

As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.

In their open letter, the former editors urge the WSA to reconsider its plan, which would have disastrous impacts on the Argus:

We urge the WSA to reconsider its current plan to reduce The Argus’s funding. To cut the paper’s budget in the proposed arbitrary manner would send the wrong message to the outside world about Wesleyan’s values and the open environment it seeks to promote. Although we spend only four short years at Wesleyan, the decisions we make have a lasting effect. For the WSA to use its power to stifle a 147-year-old institution like The Argus would be shameful. Please do not let this decision define your legacy at Wesleyan.

FIRE will continue to provide updates on the Argus’ funding here on The Torch.

Schools:  Wesleyan University

Cases:  Wesleyan University: Student Newspaper Threatened with Funding Cuts after Controversial Op-Ed