Michael Shammas, Editor in Chief, Harvard Law - In an article I wrote earlier this year, “We Owe Each Other a Moral Community,” I said that to create a moral community “we need to talk to one another, to stop judging our fellow classmates—way too many of us are already judges—and to start empathizing with them instead.” I wrote that the value added of an independent paper like The Harvard Law Record, in addition to publishing investigative pieces the law school won’t touch, is that it provides a forum for law students to speak with each other, to learn from each other, to take advantage of all the diversity (not enough) that this place has to offer, including our ideological diversity.
We can’t treat one another with empathy, I wrote, unless we value each others’ opinions. No one likes to feel like they aren’t being listened to; no one likes to feel essentialized, pigeonholed, told that they are wrong and that they have nothing of value to say simply because they belong to X gender, X race, X political party. Such a feeling of marginalization is the forceful complaint of African-American student protestors.
But despite my leftist political beliefs, as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper that exists for the entire student community, I’m cognizant of journalistic ethics requiring free discourse and fairness. That’s why it felt so disheartening to receive a few immensely critical text messages after accepting Bill Barlow’s conservative “Fascism at Yale” piece for publication, all accusing me of committing a bigoted wrong, of a brazen assault against the progressive cause, simply because I didn’t censor his op-ed. (I’ve borne similar criticisms after publishing other right-wing pieces.)
My response to each message was the same: I’m the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. If you dislike an article, take it up with that article’s author and submit a response for consideration—it will likely be published.
But my role is editor-in-chief—not thought-policeman-in-chief.
As the law school’s newspaper, present since 1946, The Record simply will not censor articles by ideology unless they constitute invidious hate speech. We can’t—or we would be abdicating our role. While I might be wary of publishing conservative articles due to some students calling me (as one did) a “bigot,” arguing that if it were not for my white male privilege I would recognize that censoring articles is the legitimate way to go, that’s my problem. I can deal with that, especially because I grew up in a Lebanese family where heated arguments are the norm. Anyone who wants to dissect my political beliefs for “ideological purity” (a scary concept) can simply google my name. Anyone who thinks The Record is a conservative-leaning publication is living in an alternate universe.
But while I’m a progressive— though I know with iron certainty that systemic racism pervades this campus— I’m also a student journalist. I won’t censor unpopular opinions. Period.
Publishing articles I disagree with makes me as liberal as they come. More importantly, it’s my duty as a student journalist.