For anyone interested in freedom of the press, October 18, 2015 is a day that deserves to live in infamy. That night, for what may be the first time in the United States, the student government of an elite American university stripped funding from that university’s campus paper—for the offense of running a conservative op-ed.
The Wesleyan Argus published the op-ed in question on September 14. Conservative student columnist Bryan Stascavage’s article was titled “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think.” Stascavage, who, by his own admission, was conflicted about his opinions on the movement, raised some rather moderate concerns about its propensity towards excusing, or even encouraging, violence toward police officers. He invited students to question if a more considered approach to police violence was necessary.
For his efforts, he was branded a racist, and a group of radical “student of color” activists started a petition to defund the campus paper that published his piece, and—and I swear I’m not making this up—to burn any copies of the paper found carrying the offending article. Yes, apparently publishing an op-ed that was merely undecided about the question of #BlackLivesMatter was enough for some activists to argue for book burning and press closure.