If this isn’t a chilling effect, I don’t know what is.
The Argus at Wesleyan University could lose more than half its printing budget on Sunday, and it’s all because student activists are mad about an op-ed constructively criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Citing our own writer Bryan Stascavage, who wrote the infamous Argus column saying Black Lives Matter isn’t exactly the Montgomery bus boycott, the Student Press Law Center reports that the student government is voting this Sunday whether to approve a resolution that would cripple the paper.
Ostensibly about giving less-well-off students the financial wherewithal to write for different campus publications – through work-study positions – the resolution would take up to $17,000 from the $30,000 Argus print budget to fund those positions.
In a different context, there would be nothing wrong with the student government re-evaluating where to deploy its scarce resources, and providing more money to other campus publications, such as the twice-yearly “students of color” journal The Ankh.
In this situation, however, the resolution – crafted in response to activists’ theft of newspapers and personal harassment of Stascavage – is nothing short of rewarding bad behavior.
Even the president of the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has fallen for this incentivize-lawlessness copout, as SPLC reports:
“Trying to come to some sort of middle ground seems to be the best approach,” [Paul] Singley said. “You don’t want to alienate anyone on your campus of any race or religion. You also want to be receptive when there are people in the community that have an issue with the way you are reporting things.”
“Receptive” in this case means giving money to thieves and bullies for thievery and bullying. “Middle ground” is capitulation to the forces of destruction and intimidation, regardless of whether they have valid criticisms of how the student paper is run and how student money is disbursed.
Critics of Stascavage and the Argus aren’t interested in winning the argument by appealing to their peers’ sense of morality, justice and proportionality. They want to silence anyone who thinks differently than them, through brute force.
This is going to be a massive teaching moment for Wesleyan, and it’s probably better that the administration – which has been remarkably supportive of free expression in this polarizing situation – stays out of it.
The student government will have no one to blame but itself if it rewards these brownshirts with work-study jobs.