Letter to the Editor | Responding to The Spectrum’s Misunderstanding of Free Speech

Dear Editor-in-Chief Jack Hastings,

We are writing to address the recent inflammatory talking points in your newspaper. In particular, we take issue with your attempts to dismiss criticism by citing slogans about “free speech.” We are responding to a recent piece by Opinion Editor Erik Jonasson II in which he defends the hate speech that has been prevalent in The Spectrum throughout the past year.

These include articles that attempt to delegitimize sexual assault survivors’ experiences, question the need for Black History Month, and justify hate speech on our campus. These articles are detrimental to the student body as a whole. The recent article titled “Hate Speech and Free Speech Belong at NDSU,” by Ezra Gray states, “if you have a problem with someone saying something that personally offends you, tough luck. Get over it and move on with your day.” This is a call to silence already marginalized voices. This mindset is rooted in a deep misunderstanding of both modern social issues and their historical contexts. To state that any form of hate speech is acceptable because it constitutes “free speech” is a disingenuous attempt to champion certain voices above others.

While The Spectrum claims to abide by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics’ aim to “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant,” their recent issues have clearly privileged a viewpoint that reinforces prejudices without any attempt to question them or open debate. Furthermore, the Code of Ethics also states that it is the responsibility of journalists to 1) Seek truth and report it, 2) Minimize harm, 3) Act independently, and 4) Be accountable and transparent. The opinion pieces and unedited interview with neo-Nazi Pete Tefft published by The Spectrum violate these codes. Interviewing a subject without context, fact-checking, and rebuttal is not reporting; it’s transcribing. Similarly, many of their pieces are not presented in good faith; they are actively trying to troll. Gray’s pieces in particular seem edgy or upsetting for the sake of it, with no benefit besides drawing attention to the writer. This is the kind of writing available for free on countless websites. Why should it be given the privileged position of being included in (and on the cover of) our University newspaper?  Publishing the direct words of the Alternative Right is a one-sided conversation, and one not worth having.

It has become clear that The Spectrum is incapable of presenting these concepts in an unbiased way. We request that the following suggestions be considered:

1. Establish an avenue of communication with professors, librarians, and other faculty with experience in professional journalism. These people can provide insight on issues with which editors of The Spectrum may be unfamiliar.

2. Be clear with policies on printing opinion pieces, particularly with those in relation to hate speech. Most serious publications restrict hate speech more tightly than what the law demands. We ask that The Spectrum does the same.

Thank you for your time,

Evan Eggers

Samantha Steckler

Kurt Eggers

Josh Haugen

Lindsey Jo Pouliot

Emily Driscoll

Samantha Kise

Becky Crisman

Jasmine Banasik

Malin Kunerth

Joshua Fenner

Mike Bittner

Erin Pearson

Akshat Sharma

Jessica Jorgenson

Jazmyne Reinke

Cindy Nichols

Emily Nicole Bartz

Verena Theile

Niki McArthur

Rachel Geinert

Wendy Troop Gordon

Tiffany Fier

Katie Guzzi

Rebecca Holland

Afton Samson

Evan Eggers, Junior, Computer Science, 701-226-9414

Kurt Eggers, First Year English Master’s, 701-425-2517

Samantha Steckler, 2017 English Alumnus, 808-345-4114

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