Harvard student Michael Shammas, editor-in-chief of The Harvard Law Record, recently schooled students who have called him all sorts of names (think “bigot”) and told him his editorial judgment amounts to “a brazen assault against the progressive cause” for his decision to run conservative op-eds.
Unlike so many student editors nowadays who apologize first and think later the moment someone says the word “racist,” Shammas shows some serious fortitude in a column published Saturday headlined “A Note from the Editor-in-Chief: Why I Don’t Censor Conservative Articles.
Shammas, a self-described “leftist” who also considers himself a “good ally against on-campus racism,” explained that as editor of a newspaper “that exists for the entire student community, I’m cognizant of journalistic ethics requiring free discourse and fairness.”
That’s why it felt so disheartening to receive a few immensely critical text messages after accepting Bill Barlow’s conservative “Fascism at Yale” piece for publication, all accusing me of committing a bigoted wrong, of a brazen assault against the progressive cause, simply because I didn’t censor his op-ed. (I’ve borne similar criticisms after publishing other right-wing pieces.)
My response to each message was the same: I’m the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. If you dislike an article, take it up with that article’s author and submit a response for consideration—it will likely be published.
But my role is editor-in-chief—not thought-policeman-in-chief.
As the law school’s newspaper, present since 1946, The Record simply will not censor articles by ideology unless they constitute invidious hate speech. We can’t—or we would be abdicating our role. While I might be wary of publishing conservative articles due to some students calling me (as one did) a “bigot,” arguing that if it were not for my white male privilege I would recognize that censoring articles is the legitimate way to go, that’s my problem. I can deal with that, especially because I grew up in a Lebanese family where heated arguments are the norm. Anyone who wants to dissect my political beliefs for “ideological purity” (a scary concept) can simply google my name. Anyone who thinks The Record is a conservative-leaning publication is living in an alternate universe. And organizations like Royall Must Fall would be the first to tell you that I’m more than happy—delighted—to publish leftist opinions.