The leaders of a student-run magazine that put an elephant symbol associated with the Republican Party on the cover of a recent edition found copies of that publication destroyed, the first in a series of incidents forcing the journalists to defend themselves and their periodical against defamatory claims.
The Claremont Independent dared to brandish the symbol on the cover of its February issue, advertising for an article titled “2014: Year of the Elephant.” The article, written by Harry Arnold, predicted a Republican victory in the upcoming midterm elections that included gaining the majority in the senate.
But copies of that edition were found ripped apart on the Scripps College campus, a progressive liberal arts women’s college in the Southern California-based Claremont University Consortium, comprised of Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College.
“We didn’t see it happen, so I’m not sure if it was students or a townie, but I went back the day after we put them out and about a dozen of them were torn up,” editor in chief of the Independent, Brad Richardson, said in an email interview with The College Fix.
Richardson said that issues of the magazine were placed outside of the college’s dining hall in the newsstand, and when he returned a day later, he found copies to be torn in half horizontally but still held together at the spine. They were scattered all over the newsstand area.
He estimated the cost of the damages to be about a $50 loss for the magazine.
“Everyone on our staff works very hard to put out five issues a year, and to see our work and effort put to waste like that is demoralizing to say the least,” Richardson said.
This is the first instance of physical aggression against the magazine to Richardson’s knowledge.
“This sort of vandalism has never happened in the two years that I’ve been on the magazine,” he said. “It is pretty common to see our top issue on newsstands flipped over (so people walking by can’t see our cover), but actually destroying copies of our issue? No, not since I’ve been here.”
Richardson said that the destruction of the issues of the magazine is representative of the current state of discourse in the Claremont University Consortium.
“College is supposed to be a place where people and ideas interact in a civil way to try to arrive at a greater understanding of complicated problems and issues,” Richardson said, but “some members of our campuses seem to be directly opposed to the fundamental purpose of the university system … (and it) is troubling.”
The magazine is an independent, non-partisan, student-run publication distributed to all of the undergraduate colleges in the Claremont consortium. It seeks to give an alternative perspective to students at the largely left-leaning institutions.
Richardson said the magazine is exactly as its name suggests – a nonpartisan publication.
Although “it’s not really a huge secret that we’ve often served as a kind of haven for conservative and libertarian commentary on campus,” the magazine has an “ideologically diverse staff,” Richardson said.
But the elephant prompted student columnist Matt Dahl of The Student Life, the official newspaper of the Claremont colleges, to dedicate an entire column to trashing the Independent after flipping through the magazine, even though “the large elephant on the cover should have tipped me off.”
Dahl wrote that his “real incredulity” began when he discovered that he was the subject of scrutiny in the pages of the magazine for a column he had written asking the consortium to support the American Studies Association’s decision to partake in the boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education.
Dahl had called the boycott “a serious and reasonable move toward checking Israeli dominance and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” which would have a “long-term result of increased liberty for all.”
However, associate editor of the Independent, Colin Spence, had an entirely different perspective on the boycott, and subsequently published a rebuttal to Dahl’s comments.
“Free academic exchanges will keep international influence ensconced in both countries and improve the likelihood of a real solution,” Spence wrote. “A real solution means bringing both sides into negotiations, not just one.”
Dahl’s response was to write another yet another column, calling the magazine “just another digest of popular Republican Party talking points” that “champion[s] the intellectually unpalatable Republican platform.” And in Dahl’s perspective, “true conservatism” means supporting the boycott even though it would deprive Israeli institutions of higher education their academic freedom.
Richardson responded on the magazine’s website by pointing out that “if the purpose of the liberal arts is to liberate the masses, then its instrument in doing so is truth. And we can only arrive at truth when the free exchange of ideas goes unfettered and academic freedom reigns supreme.”
College Fix contributor Julianne Stanford is a student at the University of Arizona.