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I’m a conservative, and my campus newspaper won’t let me contribute

No political columnists, unless they’re left-wingers

When I first arrived at Boston College as a rosy-eyed freshman, I was interested in politics and journalism, and I wanted to join both the College Republicans and the school newspaper, The Heights.

I am a conservative (economic and social, I always clarify), and have been ever since I first decided not to simply believe what my teachers pontificated but rather to think for myself—a classically liberal virtue, needless to say.

I had heard The Heights was (unsurprisingly) left-leaning, and it was. But I was pleasantly surprised when in October 2015 it published a letter to the editor I wrote criticizing the paper for a biased story about Ta-Nehisi Coates.

My letter drew ad hominem attacks, vulgar language, and physical threats from my peers, but not from the newspaper staff themselves.

In The Heights’ comment section, I was called “ignorant,” “a lost cause in matters of human decency,” “stupid,” “racist,” “bigoted,” “privileged,” “goddam blinded,” “hateful,” “a piece of shit,” and a whole number of even nastier terms. One person wrote, “…you should feel bad for who you are…” and “…watch your back whenever you leave your cozy Gonzaga [my residence hall at the time].”

There was a response-letter that mocked my writing style (“The Only Race We Should Be Talking About is NASCAR”) and one that accused me of not being a true Christian (“An Alum Addresses Salzmann’s Letter on Coates Coverage”). My friends informed me that the reaction was even worse on social media, from which I was happy to keep away.

Despite this vitriol, I found it refreshing to take on the leftist groupthink that has a vice grip on campus. I applied and was accepted to be a political columnist in my sophomore year, a conservative voice at a liberal newspaper.

That year I wrote about the meaning of conservatism, emphasizing its history and especially its significance in the 2016 election in several pieces, including “What is a Conservative?” “The Future of the GOP” and “Conservatism After Trump’s Win.”

My vociferous group of revolutionary peers often pounced on my every word, and I ceaselessly argued with my editor.

I did not have the easiest experience that year—swimming upstream is always difficult, and swimming against a torrent of progressivism is one of the most challenging political tasks of all—but it was educational and interesting, and at the very least I was able to challenge the status quo and provide another viewpoint.

But something changed when I attempted to apply for a columnist spot earlier this school year. I noticed some words in small print in the application, to the effect that political columnists need not apply: columns could only apply to matters connected directly with Boston College.

I was surprised, but in a way it makes sense as The Heights is, of course, the Boston College undergraduate newspaper. I thought the campus paper would not want the brouhaha that occurred when I wrote letters to the editor and, later, columns. I decided to respect and honor their decision.

Until I realized that was not the decision The Heights had made.

When the first edition came out this year, I noticed a highly political piece by a Heights columnist named Joshua Behrens, a self-styled socialist agitator who last year wrote panegyrics for Sen. Bernie Sanders and declared that we need a revolution in the streets.

There were other Heights columnists who wrote very political pieces—about global warming and LGBT issues that had little to do with Boston College—but Behrens’ was the most political and least connected to Boston College. Indeed, he did not mention the school even once, focusing instead on criticizing the “alt-right.” The Heights could not claim, then, that Behrens was writing apolitical columns—to the contrary, in fact.

This double standard—no political columnists, unless they’re left-wingers—was clear and worrisome, and I wrote a letter to the editor of The Heights expressing my concerns.

In a rocky e-mail exchange with The Heights opinions editor, I was informed that my piece would not be printed because it “contained factual errors”—i.e., that I claimed The Heights was biased.

That is a shocking claim—the paper, claiming it is unbiased, refuses out-of-hand to print a letter that accuses it of bias. The editor’s justification, by the way, was that (1) Behrens and friends were writing apolitical pieces connected to Boston College (an argument swiftly dropped when I linked to Behrens’ piece) and (2) that The Heights had a conservative columnist, so it just couldn’t be biased.

Leaving aside the irrelevance of the last claim, I read the “conservative columnist’s” pieces and found that he was writing about religious issues (e.g., “the value of Catholic education”) that had nothing do with politics—while Behrens and other leftists were allowed to advocate for the social justice issue du jour.

When the opinions editor denied my letter, in whole or in part, I called the editor-in-chief, who never returned my call but sent me an e-mail supporting his opinions editor—not surprising, but still disappointing.

I was—to use a word that is in vogue with the left nowadays—silenced, inasmuch as no one outside friends and the two Heights editors would ever know I’d written this piece, or about the newspaper’s ludicrous double-standard.

Such is the challenge that faces every conservative student nowadays—to speak up and be shut down (by administrators, professors, fellow students, all in charge) or not to speak at all. I have chosen the former from the beginning because I believe it is, quite simply, the right thing to do, one’s duty if one believes in what one is saying.

We are currently in a scary place for free speech and free expression on college campuses, but we must let in light and show the kinds of nasty vituperations for what they are. I have no problem with The Heights giving Josh Behrens and other left-wingers a place to write their opinions. I do have a problem, however, with a newspaper that will hire liberals but not conservatives, attempts to cover it up, and refuses to publish a denunciation of the cover-up. That, while sadly common nowadays on college campuses, is truly shameful, and scary.

IMAGE: Shutterstock

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About the Author
Karl Salzmann is a junior at Boston College, majoring in political science in minoring in French. He is the public relations director for the Boston College Republicans and will be studying abroad in Paris for the spring semester of 2018.

Add to the Discussion

  • Scipio Africanus

    Good article, nicely written. The author’s tormentors will still be making lattes long after he has become a famous journalist.

    Keep the faith, Karl!

  • DINORightMarie

    Karl – you need to post your letter to the editor on social media, and then the “justifications” they gave for not publishing it “in whole or in part.”

    That will get their attention.

  • firstresponder

    Bring a lawsuit against the college. If you don’t do that, you’re just whining – which is unproductive. I wish that a major institution would violate my civil rights that way – then I could sue them, and ask for big compensation.

  • bigfootbuilt

    State and federal funds should be denied to all these leftist bastions of SJW brownshirts disguised as “universities” that squelch free speech. There is no clearer example of the violation of the first amendment. There are so many examples of this happening, so why won’t anybody sue? It should be a slam dunk case.

  • snowcone

    Let’s see the letter they wouldn’t publish. If it was even half as petulant as this piece, I’d nix it too. You’re not doing conservatism any favors when you write like a histrionic brat who didn’t get what he wanted.

    • Hsialin

      Spoken like the liberal you are.

      • snowcone

        I love how you can’t even conceive of a conservative disagreeing with another conservative. If the author has a valid point, he should be able to lay it plainly out without every word dripping with contempt for the newspaper he clearly so desperately wants to write for. Persuasive writing doesn’t have a political affiliation.

  • Hsialin

    The only thing liberals fear is lawsuits, file immediately.

  • Rowenna

    I hope the author of this well written article will be contacting FIRE or a similar organisation who can apply pressure to the university on the basis of viewpoint discrimination…

  • Karl S.

    Many thanks to everyone who commented!

    Just for clarification, I should note that the newspaper is separate and discrete from the university and has no affiliation with or funding from it. A lawsuit against the university would be ineffective, therefore, and name the wrong party. I suppose there could hypothetically be a lawsuit against the university because it leases a room to The Heights and allows them to distribute on campus, but such a claim seems tenuous.

    Newspapers also have the legal right to refuse publication for any reason according to Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo; what they did here, however, seems to constitute an egregious violation of ethical standards (those of one political ideology may apply, those of the other may not).

    DINORightMarie, I don’t have any social media account (and I’m not particularly interesting in one), or I would indeed publish everything online. Thank you for the kind words, though!

    Karl S.

    • Ayn Al-Nimr

      In the words of Elsa “Let It Go” it’s not worth the headache. This fact is all these “outraged, social-minded liberals” realize all too quickly in the working world that no one cares about their opinions and most will be forced into a horrifying reality check when they realize the world isn’t fair or nice and no cares about their feelings. The few that continue writing for left-leaning publications will be paid nothing (Vice, The Guardian, pre-closure Gawker) and if they complain about lack of pay they may still find themselves out of work similar to The Gothemists staff.
      Focus on getting your writing into right-wing/conservative publications such as: Daily Caller, Gateway Pundit, Breibart (don’t let the Left fool you Breitbart has great stories especially in the London and Jerusalem editions). And remeber conservative news outlets pay way better. There is a reason the Guardian has to beg for money but The Daily Telegraph and The London Times do not.