December 8, 2011
Despite campus-wide outrage and objection, we stand by our decision to run last week’s opinion piece by Jeremy Adelman ’13 entitled “Hamilton men should stand up for their rights.” Although the Dec. 1 issue of The Spectator incensed much of the campus community, this controversy also serves as a tool with which to clarify the purpose of The Spectator Opinion section.
For starters, The Spectator editorial board does not endorse nor condemn writers’ opinions. As opposed to Letters to the Editor (which we publish untouched), Opinion pieces do go through a complex “screening process”; as a staff we must be extremely judicious in deciding what to edit and how to guide writers in a way that doesn’t interfere with their opinions. In certain cases, it may be hard to separate form or style from content -- while the News section is meant for objective representation of facts, the Opinion section is meant for commentary on those facts. We intend for the section, therefore, to err on the side of openness and freedom of expression, but we are also as considerate and fastidious as possible when it comes to presentation of student viewpoints. Each decision is different and depends on multiple factors; ultimately, though, we don’t take these decisions lightly.
We admit that The Spectator editorial board could do a better job advising Opinion writers and helping them formulate cohesive and respectful arguments that are constructive, interesting, and fully informed. That being said, as students first and journalists second, we don’t often have the means to nurture or train writers as thoroughly as we might like. Because our staff is entirely volunteer-based (and because we have little College support beyond funding), it is often very difficult to attract, maintain and improve good writers. Mr. Adelman’s piece just happens to be another byproduct of the limited number of resources available to us. Mr. Adelman’s articles, however, have received more response (through letters to the editor, responding articles, as well as through social media) than any other articles in the past two years. We value his ability to generate campus-wide discussion.
On the other hand, we are delighted to see so many people taking an interest in our content. These letters have also highlighted one of our concerns regarding the paper; that is, the homogeneity of the Opinion section. The Spectator Opinion Editors are continually searching for ways to enhance the diversity of thought in their section; however, they are completely at the mercy of the number of students who actually wish to have their opinions published. Even regular contributors rely on the section editors for ideas; Mr. Adelman is a rare exception, as he supplies the editors with his own topics. We urge students who are dissatisfied with the content of the Opinion section to take initiative and contribute their own content. In fact, we would view that as following Mr. Adelman’s lead; his Nov. 3, 2011 piece, entitled “Hamilton’s writing intensive ethos should extend far beyond the classroom,” was a call for more involvement in campus media.
We can’t remedy the situation without your help. Ultimately, The Spectator doesn’t have say over the opinions of our writers -- but you, as potential writers, do. Don’t just let a few people do the talking.