Why we took an article down and how we choose them in the first place

Jason Cruz

I want to address an incident which recently took place on our Facebook page. My fellow student executives at Hatter Network and I were contacted by a student who contributed an opinion piece. The student asked us to remove her article after she received a string of comments from readers who vehemently disagreed with her argument. The article’s headline, which I wrote, read as “Stop whining about cultural appropriation, Disney fans.”

None of the comments or messages contained threats against the author. However, they were of a level of vitriol which the author felt distressed by. As we respect the rights of each of our contributors, we pulled the story down after it had been up for two weeks. The comments appeared the same day as the writer’s removal request. The entire incident was over in a matter of hours.

There has been a serious debate of late regarding the role of universities and their institutions as arbiters or limiters of free speech in the United States. While much of this debate has centered on the hosting of guest speakers whose views are deemed hostile by members of the student body, the role of student media has also been called into question. At Hatter Network, we take our responsibility seriously to encourage free expression while ensuring that student concerns can be addressed.

Any student, faculty, or staff member may pitch an opinion article to us at any time. We reserve the right to accept or deny any piece, edit those we accept and publish them through the same avenues we publish the work our staff produces. When I decided to accept this particular article, I knew it would be popular with some, unpopular with others and contained arguments people may consider offensive. Overall, I deemed it acceptable for publication.

Andy Dehnart, our faculty advisor, once told my predecessor that publishing an article meant deciding the information and views represented therein are worth consideration. That has been the standard I apply to articles written by my staff and contributors, regardless of how I personally feel about them. I will continue to do so until I exit this position in the near future. I still believe this article was OK to publish, labelled clearly as the views of the author just as all opinion articles will continue to be labelled. If the author had not asked for its removal, it would still be up.

If I could do things differently, I would not have used the headline which I did. By framing the article as an attack or command, I affected readers’ framing of the article. For that I have offered an apology to the author, and I apologize to you, Dear Reader.

It is my personal belief that the best way to respond to articles you strongly disagree with is to clearly spell out your disagreements. Commenting on pieces is one avenue for this, and will remain so at Hatter Network. Comments referring to the content of an article will always be welcome, but comments personally attacking authors or threatening others will not be tolerated.

I also encourage you to write a direct rebuttal for Hatter Network to publish. Send your pitch to our Facebook page, or email [email protected] or [email protected] to begin the process. If you allow us to publish your criticisms alongside the original article, you will be advancing the critical dialogue on an issue which you care about. This way all of us can use our freedom to speak not only to express ourselves, but to try and change the minds of others.

Jason is a senior majoring in English and Philosophy. Jason currently serves as The Reporter’s Editor-In-Chief.