Unless one advocates the revocation of freedom of the press and free speech, we must extend these rights to everyone and accept that, even in a politically correct environments such as Amherst, people sometimes have views that make others uncomfortable.
In the case of The Spectator, the difference consists of simply the line between what some view as funny and what others may see as offensive. However, offensiveness alone is not a qualification for the Student Finance Committee (SFC) to revoke The Spectator’s funding, thus cancelling the magazine.
There is, however, a soundly based argument as to why The Spectator should lose funding. When the SFC allocates funds to a publication, they do so based on the magazine’s purported “genre.” In the case of The Spectator, the SFC allocated money to an organization whose mission specified a conservative political publication. At first glance, the most recent issue of The Spectator did not seem to fall under its charter-thus voiding its contract with the SFC and unambiguously begging for a revocation of funding. Upon closer inspection, however, the situation is much more complicated.
The Spectator has been gradually drifting away from its charter for several semesters. It began as a conservative magazine, turned libertarian/conservative, became libertarian, then, last semester, was libertarian with some humor. So, really, the “conservative” Spectator was actually a libertarian/humor magazine. Although their political slant differed from the one in their charter, no one tried to revoke their funding last semester.
If you are going to argue that The Spectator should lose its funding, you must make sure to pursue the issue for the correct reasons. The precedent set by the SFC over the last few semesters was to allow the gradual shift of The Spectator away from its charter. All the new leadership of The Spectator did was to take one more step in that already established-and tacitly condoned-chain. They went from libertarian/
humor to just humor, just as they had gone from conservative/libertarian to just libertarian.
If the SFC wants to reclaim The Spectator’s funding, that is their business. I simply urge them to make sure that they are not limiting free speech or going against their own precedents in doing so. If our governing body refuses to accept its own precedents because it did not like what was said in the magazine’s most recent issue, they are committing a far worse offense than anything The Spectator could ever print.
Ben Hopkins ’03
The (new and better) Spectator
I am happy that The Amherst Spectator is no longer a “journal of conservative and libertarian thought.” However, it is still staunchly ideological, despite its editorial statement to the contrary. The first issue not only excluded a large group of students on campus-it shoved them out. You cannot put Yoda’s face on an image of the Savior and claim it to be purely “humorous.” It is a powerful political and social statement, and was taken as such by some devout Christians on campus.
As I wrote in a letter to The Spectator during its dark conservative days, “not caring who you offend” is not something to be proud about. If The Spectator’s mission is indeed as inclusive as its editors now claim, the feelings of their friends and neighbors must be brought into account. If the mission is to stand for the cause of breaking down everything sacred-as I hope it will be-then this should be made entirely explicit. Claims to “humor” fall on deaf ears of those who feel persecuted, ridiculed and hated. Not everybody can afford the luxury of irony.
I hope the next issue will not claim to be universally funny but will allow the reader to understand why the editors found that material funny and why they think it should be shared with the rest of campus. The offended parties deserve this gesture, and I think they would respect it. If you want to be iconoclasts, then you should also break down the moral high ground taken by those who hurt others and then claim that it was “only a joke.”
Today, April 19, is Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel: a cold reminder that disrespect for your neighbors can take you all the way to disrespect for their life and even the memory of their life. Be funny, but take full responsibility for your jokes.
The Spectator’s new voice is otherwise a breath of fresh air in Amherst’s much-too-predictable publication circuit. Expect my contributions.
Tal Liron ’03
Coeducation’s economic roots
Last week’s article, “Faculty size has grown little since College went coed,” addressed the issue of faculty size subsequent to the time the College went coed. The author seems to be unaware of the economic reason for going coed, specifically to increase the student/faculty ratio and then raise faculty salaries.
This rationale was explained to me and several other alums by Bill Ward at a dinner at the Century Club, which did not admit women at the time. It seems that the faculty saw an increase in the student/faculty ratio as a method for increasing salaries. The faculty did not want to “dilute” the quality of the students while it attained its economic goal, and the admission of women followed.
Now there are those with a selective memory that do not want to admit to any economic motivation; however, the evidence speaks loudly. Faculty salaries have increased much faster than the rate of inflation, and the student/faculty ratio has increased. Whatever the motivation of the faculty, the consequences are clear.
Michael Petrino ’68