Harvard newspaper rebuked for covering both sides of a story

by WorldTribune Staff, November 14, 2019

At Harvard, students’ so-called “feelings of unsafety” now apparently supersede freedom of the press.

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s daily student newspaper which was founded in 1873, was rebuked by Harvard’s student government for having the audacity to exercise its First Amendment rights by covering both sides of a news story.

Harvard’s Undergraduate Council said it was ‘necessary’ to ‘acknowledge the concerns raised by numerous groups and students on campus over the past few weeks and to recognize the validity of their expressed fear and feelings of unsafety.’ / Wikimedia Commons

The newspaper’s crime, according to student activists and the Undergraduate Council, was contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for comment for a report on an anti-ICE protest on campus.

The Undergraduate Council voted to declare that it “stands in solidarity” with anti-ICE students, including the campus group Act on a Dream, who have demanded that the student newspaper stop reaching out to the federal agency, Valerie Richardson noted in a Nov. 12 report for The Washington Times.

“The Undergraduate Council stands in solidarity with the concerns of Act on a Dream, undocumented students, and other marginalized individuals on campus,” the council said, according to the Crimson.

“It is necessary for the Undergraduate Council to acknowledge the concerns raised by numerous groups and students on campus over the past few weeks and to recognize the validity of their expressed fear and feelings of unsafety,” said the council.

Richardson noted that more than 900 students signed Act on a Dream’s petition condemning the Crimson’s decision to call ICE for comment after a Sept. 12 anti-ICE protest at Harvard, saying it was “virtually the same as tipping them off” about illegal immigrants.

“This was the wrong call,” said the petition. “We are extremely disappointed in the cultural insensitivity displayed by The Crimson’s policy to reach out to ICE, a government agency with a long history of surveilling and retaliating against those who speak out against them.”

Act on a Dream called on the Crimson to apologize, to stop contacting ICE for comment, and to make a commitment to “protecting undocumented students on campus.”

Crimson president Kristine E. Guillaume, class of 2020, said in a statement that the newspaper’s staff has met with Act with a Dream “to hear their concerns and explain our approach.”

“Fundamental journalistic values obligate The Crimson to allow all subjects of a story a chance to comment,” Guillaume said. “This policy demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that the individuals and institutions we write about have an opportunity to respond to criticisms in order to ensure a fair and unbiased story.”

Both Act on a Dream and College Democrats have said they will refuse to speak to the Crimson until its policies are changed, the newspaper reported.

Richardson noted that Laura S. Veira-Ramirez, who described herself as an undocumented student, quit her post as an editorial editor at the Crimson last week, accusing the newspaper of adhering to “oppressive journalistic norms.”

Society for Professional Journalists President Patricia Gallagher Newberry called it “wholly appropriate” for the Crimson to seek comment from ICE.

“You’re not calling ICE to call out an individual person who might be in our country without the documentation required by ICE,” Newberry told the Crimson. “You’re simply asking for it to respond in a holistic way to the Abolish ICE Movement.”

Reason’s Robby Soave said the anti-ICE concerns were “silly, and none of the activists have offered any evidence it is legitimate,” noting that “seeking comment from relevant parties is standard journalistic practice and ought to be commended.”

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