Have you ever celebrated diversity by ensuring it can't exist? If so, perhaps you'll enjoy the jubilee in Santa Barbara.
At the end of last semester, the University of California, Santa Barbara's independent student paper issued a missive concerning future op-eds.
Per its opinion editor, the Daily Nexus knows that printed words determine safety.
In an attempt to protect the most vulnerable, the outlet will diversify via the opposite of that very word.
In order to truly cultivate a space for comfortable and safe dialogue, it is imperative that we prioritize diversity not just in content but in who is writing said content. As editors, our individual experiences limit our critical lens and, therefore, our published content. Consequently, diversifying the voices contributing to our section is imperative in widening the scope of our coverage.
Though a position of printing various ideas is in no way unique, the staff sees it as so. They must, to be clear, concoct a counterbalance to free speech:
As the opinion section of a newspaper, we are in a unique position, both as editors and in terms of our content. We must balance free speech regarding expressed opinions with wanting to keep the Nexus and UC Santa Barbara as a whole a safe space to enter two-way dialogues.
Are today's college students aware that “safe spaces” have never existed until this very tick of history's second hand?
Either way, previously published opinions at the Nexus weren't universally embraced. Hence, a coming correction:
[S]afe and diverse spaces are earned, not declared. In the past, our organization's reporting styles, phrasing and overall atmosphere have alienated various UCSB communities and organizations. …
We do not at all expect members of these communities to feel safe starting a dialogue with any of our sections. As long as the Nexus as a whole is not perceived as a safe space, our newsroom will not properly represent the diversity of our campus.
The publication's “commitment to free speech,” it turns out, “has often contradicted [its] effort to cultivate safe spaces.”
When articles are repeatedly given consideration despite their potential to directly or indirectly alienate communities in the name of free speech, we fail as a section and a publication as a whole.
From now on, the Nexus will be more “thoughtful in publishing pieces.” It will “encourage…editors and sections to take a critical (and potentially uncomfortable) internal look at themselves” and their practices.”
The paper doesn't say which identity groups will be forced into discomfort while others are shielded. But make no mistake — it “still [values] being a platform for varying perspectives,” and it desires “to ensure that pieces differ in their views.” However, that'll be done “while keeping [its] values of upholding diversity and creating safe spaces for dialogue intact.”
Pieces that directly infringe on the safety or sense of security of any individual or group do not have a place in our section.
The Nexus isn't the first pupil-led periodical to decide its op-ed section will reflect only particular points of view.
Last month, I covered the case of Northwestern University.
Editor Lily Nevo announced that opinionated oppressors would no longer get published:
I am…wary of publishing pieces from those who hold positions of institutional power or those who already have platforms to disseminate a message. … [I] would like to ensure [the opinion section] is used to amplify the voices of those who are not necessarily represented in other spaces, rather than give more space to those who already have it.
Though the line between hate speech and free speech continues to be blurry and we always evaluate pieces on a case-by-case basis, I have come to broadly define hate speech as expression that diminishes an identity-based group or a person holding a specific identity from a protected class.
Bottom line: “[W]e do not publish pieces we deem offensive.”
If I had to guess, an 86'ing of opinions via the forced uniformity of diversity and the exclusive application of inclusiveness will catch on at campuses across the country. If words are violence and speech is harm, the mere mention of an opposing idea is comparable to a crime.
After all, everyone deserves to be safe — and safety, evidently, can't be had if thoughts run amok.
Back to UC Santa Barbara, here's to hoping no one gets injured by the letters printed on a page.
Maybe look out especially for G's, N's and Z's — those can surely snag easily.
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balance between free speech and speech that isn't at all free