Clarifying Opinion Section Editorial Policy

The Editorial Board clarifies their existing policies for opinion article submissions and encourages community members of diverse viewpoints to seek publication in the paper.

This editorial reflects the Editorial Board’s updated perspective on the statement issued on Nov. 15 regarding the paper’s policy toward Israel-Palestine opinion submissions. In that statement, several opinion editors and one of the editors-in-chief specified that we were considering a policy that would reject op-eds “linked to the perpetuation of mass death.”

After discussion among the entire Editorial Board, we have voted against implementing a new policy. Rather, we will reiterate and adapt our existing opinion policy to the current global political context and troubling trends in national media.

We understand that many have felt disappointed by our communication since Nov. 13, when several editors published a confusing and inflammatory editor’s note about this proposed policy that has since been removed from The Student’s website. Today, we write to work towards rebuilding our relationship with the Amherst community and clarify that we continue to accept articles from a diversity of perspectives.

The first component of our existing policy is as follows: The Student reserves the right to refuse publication to any article that fails to meet our journalistic standards. For example, for an article to be published within The Student, it must be free of bigotry (whether explicit or implicit, including coded dog-whistles).

An article must also contain a certain level of argumentative rigor, achieved through a thoughtful synthesis of fact and original ideas. A submission failing to meet these standards does not necessarily mean it will be denied publication — the opinion editors’ primary goal is to work with writers to refine their arguments, helping them achieve a high level of clarity suitable for publication within the paper. We find it necessary to reiterate these policies due to the influx of poorly-argued, inflammatory opinion submissions that we have received from alumni, as well as these contributors’ unwillingness to edit their articles in ways that add depth and nuance.

As editors, we separate our work from our political beliefs in that we distinguish what resonates with our own views from what makes a well-crafted argument. We recognize that to deliberately sieve out certain political views would be to overstep our role, which is to create a space for informed discussion and engagement within the Amherst community.

The second component of our policy permits editors of The Student to read articles ahead of publication and publish an accompanying piece to be published the same week as the original article. This accompanying article will not be appended to the original article, and the writer of the original piece will be informed that this article will be in conversation with another in advance of publication. For example, if a student submits an article for the following week, an editor can read the article while it’s in the process of being published and choose to write an additional piece that addresses arguments from the original article, just as any member of the Amherst community would be able to after the article has been published.

We want people to understand the submission process clearly, so that they feel confident that their submission will be treated with respect and care. The process begins with a writer sending a first draft of their finished piece to the opinion section editors. From there, the opinion editors, along with the senior managing editors and editors in chief, provide comments, suggestions, and edits for the writer to review. The writer reviews the changes, and the editors and the writer work together to revise the piece until it’s ready for publication per, among other stylistic considerations, the guidelines stated above. While we do occasionally push articles for the following week if the piece needs more attention, we very rarely — virtually never — reject articles outright. In the past semester, we have only rejected one contribution on sight, due to the  fact that the submission came from a Williams alum and had been published elsewhere previously.

To clarify: These are not new policies. We write this piece to reaffirm our existing commitments to open, respectful dialogue and to increase the transparency of the operations of the Editorial Board with the campus community. We appreciate the feedback we have received, and we hope that this piece will serve to resolve any confusion regarding the editorial policies of The Student.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of the majority of the Editorial Board — (assenting: 11; dissenting: 1; abstaining: 0).