Black Lives Matter op-ed fuels funding controversy for student paper

A controversial opinion piece and mounting diversity concerns could be the demise of the oldest twice-weekly collegiate newspaper in the country.

The Wesleyan Argus which has published since 1868 at Wesleyan University, generated controversy on campus September 14 when it published an opinion piece, by student Bryan Stascavage, criticizing elements of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the editorial, Stascavage expressed concern regarding radical elements within the movement. “If vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement,” Stascavage said. “I do support many of the efforts by the more moderate activists.”

Critics have already been calling for the university community to boycott and defund the newspaper, as Campus Reform reported on Sept. 22. The op-ed has added fuel to criticism of perceived lack of diversity in the newspaper’s staff and content. A petition submitted a list of demands such as creating work study positions, requiring “Social Justice/Diversity” training for staff, and a front page section dedicated to marginalized groups.

While the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) leadership toldThe Argus that they were “supportive of the push for a more equitable and inclusive Argus,” they initially hoped that “cries for change” would move the newspaper to action.

Now the WSA is threatening to cut funding to the 147 year-old newspaper. The Student Press Law Center reported Oct. 7 that the WSA may transfer up to $17,000 from the newspaper’s $30,000 budget toward creating work-study positions at campus publications. The move would aim to encourage diversity at campus publications, which are mostly white.

The current staff of The Argus is unpaid. Previous attempts to pay the editorial staff were ended on account of budget concerns.

Following the fallout from Stascavage’s editorial, the editorial leadership at The Argus published the first front-page editorial “in institutional memory” on the matter. Editors-in-Chief Rebecca Brill and Tess Morgan expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and wrote, “The opinions expressed in the op-ed do not reflect those of The Argus, and we want to affirm that as community members, we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.” They also announced a “Black Out Issue” written by students of color.

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