A sad era for the CU journalism school
Free Speech at the University of Colorado’s journalism school has died a sad death, suffering from a lack of outrage over the recent decision by campus leaders to impose politically correct and intellectually bankrupt censorship on student reporters there.
The Boulder campus has been in a tizzy for more than two months after Campus Press columnist Max Karson wrote a controversial satirical column titled “If It’s War They Want…” The piece, which included offensive references to Asian stereotypes, was memorable for two reasons. First, it was poorly written. And second, while Karson says he wrote the piece in an attempt to provoke dialogue on what he considers to be a racist campus, he failed to do so.
Instead, Karson’s column served to effectively bait CU’s liberal administration into censoring all student journalists. Campus Press editors were condemned as racist for failing to dump Karson’s column before it ran, diversity sessions were imposed on the Campus Press staff, and an inevitable investigation was commenced by Boulder Chancellor Bud Peterson.
All over a column. A poorly written column. By a kid who swears he’s not a racist.
After weeks of reflection, Peterson has now decided just exactly what CU’s response will be. In a column published in the Colorado Daily, an independent newspaper, Peterson outlined four specific responses to the column.
The most notable is the first response. According to Peterson, CU is investigating whether Karson’s column violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a provision that specifically prohibits federally-funded institutions like CU from discriminated against protected classes, including race and sex.
Apparently, Peterson has never heard of the First Amendment, which clearly protects political speech—even bad political satire.
Predictably, diversity activists are also using this controversy as an opportunity to divert more funding to campus diversity efforts – already pegged at over $30 million annually. According to Peterson, CU’s second response includes “additional funding for programs and scholarships, a broadened focus on diversity and quick administrative action when a racist incident occurs.”
Third, Peterson also announced the creation of a Campus Press oversight board that will include “not only journalism faculty but also non-journalism students, faculty and administrators representing a broad diversity of campus interests.” In other words, students can’t be trusted to use the First Amendment without the guidance of diversity activists indoctrinating them at every step.
In addition, Campus Press editors will have a new opinion policy that states in part “that all opinions deemed controversial will be discussed by student editors who will strive to offset controversial opinions with a counter opinion published the same day on the same page.”
How exactly is an opinion column “deemed controversial”? Perhaps Peterson meant to say “unpopular.”
According to Journalism Dean Paul Voakes, the efforts are not meant to censor student reporters. The oversight panel, he claims, will merely offer suggestions and insights from people about how to make Campus Press more successful. We wish we could believe him.
As it stands, the Campus Press is a disgrace of a student newspaper even without this latest controversy. Once published weekly, and now only available online, the publication as currently organized does little to prepare students for the real of work of journalism. The Colorado Daily, once the school’s student rag, moved off campus decades ago amidst controversy over its editorial independence and continues to serve as the Boulder campus’ de facto newspaper.
Any of the four responses advocated by Peterson are a step in the wrong direction. Taken collectively, however, they create a devastating chilling effect in the one place on campus where free speech should be most sacred.