Editorial: We are Changing in Response to the Harm We Have Done

           There’s no way around it: the Decaturian caused serious harm when publishing a column recently titled, “Never Enough for Social Justice Warriors.” Campus was repulsed, and rightfully so. The Decaturian is opening conversations with Student Development, members of the community, and within the Dec itself so that we make deep, long-lasting changes—not put band-aids on the issues.

We want to be more transparent with communication with our readers, more open in listening to our readers, and careful with what we publish.

           We will start with the events that led to the publication of the columns in question.

           Not just many, but all staff Decaturian writers adamantly want to state that this column does not represent the thoughts of everyone in the Dec. We have people on the Dec whose basic rights were questioned and not completely respected in this column.

The columns in question came from a column-writing class taught by the Decaturian’s faculty advisor, Dr. Scott Lambert. Some of the leaders in the Dec, but not all, agreed that we would publish as many of these columns as we could online because we have a generally open policy about publication in general.

Dr. Lambert encouraged us to accept the columns because we are typically a left-leaning publication, and Dr. Lambert and I (Athena Pajer), agreed it was healthy to publish at least one person with views that aren’t exactly like our own. After all, further-right views definitely exist on-campus.

Most Decaturian editors protested publishing the columns at all. In the end, the editors in charge of publishing that day came to a decision that it’s not representative of the campus if we don’t publish these columns at all. 

We, as a paper, try to serve all of campus. Our role is “the student voice.” Anyone can write letters to the editor, join the Dec without any prior experience in journalism or writing, and assist in other ways. But that offers a huge problem: we have the power to do incredible harm when we give ignorance or intolerance a voice.

Because it amplifies.

The morning the writer came in question, I (Athena Pajer), reached out to the writer to ask if she wanted to take the post down, because I think that keeping a column posted even if it receives backlash is cruel to the writer and even more cruel to people who take offense to it, and more damage could be avoided if we immediately start assessing the problem from the inside. We did not intend to sweep anything under the rug, but to stop the immediate source of the harm.

I engaged in dialogues with many friends, in the Decaturian and outside. Here are the conclusions we drew:

We realize as a group that racial issues and other issues regarding equality and human rights actually don’t belong on a political spectrum of “left and right” but a moral one about “right and wrong.”

So, the Decaturian will be even more careful, so we never represent wrongdoing. Deep down, we want to be a platform for all reasonable voices–even if these voices disagree. 

The Decaturian still wants to encourage all people to join the Decaturian, because one of the best ways to affect the student voice is to be the student voice.

Most of our editorial voices are white, and, thought we are trying hard to be anti-racist and covering topics that are inclusive, that will only take us so far. Our approach needs to change even more.

Profound changes do not happen overnight, but this change absolutely needs to happen immediately: we will not publish anything that devalues movements that advocate for equality. We will be sticking more closely to what we really believe in, not what outdated journalistic trends tell us we should do.

           The Decaturian would like to sincerely apologize for the harm we have caused, and we want to change drastically in response. We are taking all comments to heart, offering people to continue to criticize all our columns, articles, and other types of materials. Major reform is on the way, and if you have any input, we encourage you to email [email protected]


           Athena Pajer