Give The Medium silent treatment
For those who don’t know The Medium, it is a student-run weekly comedy newspaper. The paper refers to itself as “The Entertainment Weekly of Rutgers University.”
Wikipedia indicates that, “as a result of frequent attacks on their right to print offensive material, the editors and contributors [of The Medium] turned the paper into a veritable exercise of their First Amendment Rights,” often in ways that resulted in protests from the student body and pressure from the administration. Nearly all protests against the paper have been largely ineffective because of the University’s commitment to democracy. This time, let’s make our protest effective.
I’m drawing attention to their “Personals,” but not because it directly affects me. On the contrary, it affects the diversity of students on this campus that the University prides itself on. In the personals section, anonymous messages are printed like classifieds in the newspaper, allowing students to freely criticize University administration, students and national establishments. I am for freedom of speech, but I know when to draw the line, and not print racial and ethnic attacks. I would understand criticizing the administration, faculty, students, buses, etc. in a positive, productive way. But I do not see attacking students based on racial, ethnic or sexual orientation as productive, nor do I see it as an example of freedom of speech on campus.
When deciding whether speech is of public or private concern, Chief Justice John Roberts said that we should examine the “content, form and context” of speech “as revealed by the whole record.” Speech deals with matters of public concern when it can “be fairly considered as relating to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community,” or when it “is a subject of legitimate news interest; that is, a subject of general interest and of value and concern to the public.” The First Amendment does not follow, however, that people may intentionally inflict severe emotional injury on private persons in today’s world by launching vicious verbal attacks that make no contribution to public debate. I was in the outer office when Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law making it illegal for state laws or rules to identify anyone with a developmental or intellectual disability as “mentally retarded,” known as the “R-word.”
The R-word shouldn’t be said, however it is used frequently in day-to-day conversations, but not in public newspapers and publications. The “F-word” in the gay community is avoided as well, but The Medium has no problem printing it. The “N-word” doesn’t seem to faze Medium editors and contributors either. These examples show that bigotry is still alive today. Most know this already, yet most still deny it happens right here in New Jersey, let alone on the University campus. I am pointing out that defending The Medium’s interpretation of freedom of speech is completely ignorant of what our nation’s founders would have wanted and what today’s world doesn’t want or need.
The University is more diverse than most colleges in the state and in other state universities. New Brunswick is a second home for me, as I was born here, treated for leukemia here as a child and now attend this great University. The University’s commitment can be to democracy and to diversity. The current version of The Medium is said to be purely satire and humorous based on events on the University campus, current events and popular culture. There should be no bias or prejudice based on people’s race in student “entertainment” newspapers. Derogatory language of the past only continues to show the ignorance of today’s world and University students at a place I call home.
University President Richard L. McCormick said in 2004, “while this student-funded publication is protected by the First Amendment, the vicious, provocative and hurtful material [The Medium’s] editors have chosen to publish is completely at odds with our values as a university.” It was in response to the political cartoon called “Holocaust Remembrance Week” that captioned what they called political satire, but most would call cruel speech. The Daily Targum freely lets us express our right to freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment. My background does not exemplify diversity. However, I was raised and have grown up in a world to accept and learn about differences in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical disability.
I may disagree with most on campus because of my political views. In some cases, people have preconceived notions of me because of my political views. However, as a student leader, scholar, research staffer, advocate and student on campus, I see stopping what this paper prints as a priority. I ask of all of you, the University community, to refuse to read this paper until action is taken. No one in their right mind would allow for this to print at the University, such a diverse, interconnected and renowned school. Leave The Medium where it lays, near the trashcan at full stack, just as it was delivered. Our education and academic success at the University is not well-represented in things such as this paper, so please stand with me in shedding light on the real face of The Medium.
Connor Montferrat is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and criminal justice. He is the president of the Rutgers College Republicans and the University chapter of the Childhood Leukemia Foundation.