Monday, February 24, 2003

Miami University newspaper -- a vision of our future? 

Erin O'Connor has an article about the firing of a student, Aaron Sanders, writing for the newspaper at Miami University. A column in the Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday follows the story. The student wrote of a faculty member showing a video of a man urinating on another man in a French course. The chair of the French and Italian Dept, Peter Strauss, has responded to both the student editorial and another column by Peter Bronson in the Enquirer. (See also the earlier O'Connor writeup here and the comments below.) And the Miami Review seems to re-run the original student article.

In Stauss' editorial he writes:
In fact, singling out sex from the vast array of materials that we do study reveals a fascination with it on the part of the article's author. Well fine, to each his own. But more than that, his piece makes clear that he wants to stop other people from talking about this particular subject in their own ways. I can easily imagine that our classes would be very threatening to someone like that, because they encourage a free exchange of divergent ideas about all sorts of topics. The real issue here isn't sex; the issue is controlling people's right to express themselves and think through their opinions without undue fear.
There's a very common pattern here. He wants to allow this "thinking through their opinon" as long as it is occurring in his classroom, but when it's done in a student newspaper people need to be terminated. (This is in fact Bronson's point.) The parallels to other events such as the Israeli flag debate are too keen to ignore.

The University Chronicle has had a wonderful effect on this campus of engaging in solid, balanced editorial pages and reporting that has tended to be evenhanded. This year's staff is to be commended for a very good paper. But we all remember that last year student government tried to pull the plug on the Chronicle over its criticism of the UND mascot issue. There is at this time no alternative paper to the Chronicle for a campus of 14,000. So far all is well, but there may come a time where we too will need a separate place for the Aaron Sanders of our campus.