In the middle of September, a staff writer for The Wesleyan Argus, Bryan Stascavage, wrote an article titled “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think.” In the article, Stascavage argues that Black Lives Matter has over-generalized police as killers. He refers to the movement as “hypocritical” due to the recent killings, some execution style, of police officers. It garnered a lot of attention, and the students were not quiet about their opinions, resulting in the paper’s funding being cut.
Wesleyan’s president, Michael Roth, addressed the responses through his online blog, Roth on Campus. President Roth wrote, “Some students not only have expressed their disagreement with the op-ed but have demanded apologies, a retraction and have even harassed the author and the newspaper’s editor.” President Roth went on to defend freedom of speech by writing, “Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable…. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.”
Yet, despite President Roth coming out in defense of freedom of speech and expression, the newspaper’s budget was cut. The Hartford Courant reported that the student government cut The Wesleyan Argus’s budget $17,000. The funding went from $30,000 to $13,000, a decrease of over 50 percent.
Technically this budgetary cut is not directly restricting the student body’s freedom of speech or expression. In fact, the article can still be read on the newspaper’s website. However, such a severe budgetary cut sends a very clear message from the student governing body to The Wesleyan Argus, as well as the student body as a whole. It is basically telling the writers and editors, and anyone who wants to voice their opinion, that their thoughts better not differ from the majority’s. As President Roth’s response alludes to, this type of response misses the point.
In terms of the article itself, I disagree. According to Stascavage’s wesconnect page, he served in the US Army from August 2006 to March 2012. As a veteran, he may have a very different perspective on BLM than most people. With that being said, I think that Stascavage does not understand the BLM movement. He talks repeatedly about how BLM has founded its movement in protesting the actions of the few extreme cops. However, the nearly daily reports of police brutality against people of color show that extreme police actions are anything but the exception. In a society where countless police have gunned down, tasered, and choked innocent people of color, then walked away with little if any repercussion, it is difficult to argue that police brutality is the action of a small minority. Not every police officer is racist, and the majority probably isn’t, but clearly America has an institutionalized problem.
Coming full circle, both Stascavage and Wesleyan’s student government have missed the point. Stascavage missed the motivation behind, and importance, of BLM. The student government has obstructed freedom of expression and speech, potentially preventing future meaningful debate and discussion that could have shown Stascavage the errors in his thought process.