Digitalia Columbiana, February 2018
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
The letters below are a rejected Spec Letter to the Editor, and The Spectator’s reply, found on the computer of one of our own.
My name is Oliver I am an associate editor in the opinion section. I’d first like to thank you for writing this piece. Additionally, as a member of Spectator, I will begin by admitting that this is an issue in which impartiality is difficult. That being said, I feel I have done my best to remain impartial in my editing.
That being said, again, as a member of Spec (and not just opinion) I think I speak for all of us when I say that we strive to make all our content as good as it can be. In lieu of this goal, I think we all welcome the criticism, and thank you for it. This piece makes a really good point. As a (we like to think) widely read newspaper, the way news covers their analysis is wildly important. It has the ability to shape the viewpoints of the readers in a way otherwise unprecedented.
However, frankly, I feel that your piece (as it stands) is not necessarily exempt from the same issues that you noted in the news article. This is particularly the case in the 2nd to last paragraph, in which you open the floor for greater discussion on the issue. Essentially, I feel that you criticize the piece, without adding much more to the discussion. There are many points where you begin to add strong analysis, but instead seem to shy away from it in favor of disparaging news. I would like to see more analysis, which I think will bring this to being a much stronger piece.
Title: A Free Throw on Free Speech
Author: Ufon Umanah
The last time Spec published something under “news analysis” was in 2007, and outside The Eye, analytical coverage has been sparse in the best of times. In The State of Speech, Spec News returns to the analysis game, but it seems those analytical skills got a little rusty during the break.
The article, in giving a broad overview of free speech issues in little more than a thousand words, misses key nuances. While the definition of an academic setting initially confounded the University Senate, senators eventually agreed to restrict the scope of the Resolution on Academic Freedom to core academic functions. As defined, the resolution wouldn’t have much bearing on CUCR’s guest speakers, though the topic came up during debate of the resolution (again, when the Senate was confused). Meanwhile, the analysis evaded Aristotle’s criticism of the Marching Band’s portrayal of him in the last Orgo Night. Given the fresh controversy in a facet of the free speech debate occurred during finals week, which is the academic equivalent of a Friday news dump, the absence glares.
I’m sure News enjoys the nitpicking, but the end of The State of Speech appeals to the community to approach the debate “that isn’t happening” as the title reads. It’s not that the debate hasn’t happened. While I can’t speak to the negotiations between the Student and Faculty Affairs Committees, the debate elsewhere has become entrenched since last year. The Columbia Political Union hosted two large debates across the aisle my maiden year, indeed one on free speech, and a gala to unite the political community. The Student Governing Board hosted a panel on activism which included such disparate voices as Columbia Democrats, Right to Life, Aryeh, and Students for Justice in Palestine. Today, the Columbia Democrats are on record calling for sanctions against CUCR. Understanding the nuances of the debate, and particularly where it derailed, and where exactly the moral Rubicon has been crossed, is critical to having that debate.
It’s hard to say where analysis should fit in the news-opinion divide. Does it deepen a reader’s understanding of an issue? Does it provide an agreeable solution to the problem? But by not giving enough space to the analysis, The State of Speech does neither.