In an article on its website yesterday, the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) discussed Tufts University’s actions against The Primary Source. The SPLC focused on Tufts’ requirement that the paper include a byline with every editorial it prints from now on, putting an end to unsigned editorials.
Barbara Grossman, who headed the committee that found TPS guilty of harassment and creating a hostile environment, explained in a statement that “The Primary Source can continue to print what it chooses, but it should not have the shelter of anonymity from which to launch hurtful attacks.”
Grossman ignores the fact that Tufts’ punishment of political opinion and satire is the very condition that will drive students to seek the shelter of anonymity in expressing themselves.
Whether the prohibition on unsigned editorials will apply to other campus papers is unclear at this point. The SPLC reports that former editor in chief of the Tufts Daily, Kathrine Schmidt, “said she had not heard that administrators were making plans to extend the ruling to other student media.” But Schmidt will likely be dismayed to learn that a university spokeswoman told the SPLC that “many officials would like to see the policy extended to all campus media” and Tufts Public Relations Director Kim Thurler said “she expects the administration to look into broadening this policy as early as this fall.”
The impending demise of anonymous editorials at Tufts doesn’t sit well with famed journalist and UMass emeritus professor Howard Ziff. The SPLC writes,
Howard Ziff…said unsigned editorials are a staple of American journalism. If the Tufts Daily and other campus media lose the right to publish unsigned editorials, they may as well lose the right to publish at all, he said.
“That, in effect, closes the paper,” Ziff said. “If I were there, I’d say ‘OK, see you later’ and close down the paper. You don’t have to live under that kind of restraint.”
Ziff said personally, he does not believe opinion pieces should be printed unsigned. But he added that university administrators should never be put in charge of making those decisions.
“I don’t think anybody from the president of Tufts to the president of the United States has a right to tell a member of the press what has to be signed,” Ziff said. “I think it’s very dangerous to let some power … tell you what should be signed and what shouldn’t be signed.”