The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Cast the First Stone

Here comes the broad all-encompassing statement of the week:

People are ignorant.

“That’s a pretty mean statement,” some might say. “Where have Pollyanna’s rose-colored glasses gone?”

The reasons for this seemingly harsh statement are twofold.

One, I have been an editor of a community newspaper for three years. I have seen the peaks and valleys of student involvement. I have seen apathy, cronyism, corruption, and stupidity.

Two, I have seen the same wrongs shamelessly repeated, in a cyclical destructive manner.

At different points during my tenure as editor, I have accumulated many stories that would be appalling to most logical people.

In 2003, I received a letter to the editor from the university Counseling Center that stated The Torch “promotes high risk drinking behavior” and “endorses” the negative consequences of binge drinking.

Why? Because the newspaper accepted an advertisement from a local cafe/lounge that offered beverage specials on a certain night, and also because we gave a favorable review of an off-Broadway performance that included drinking.

Never mind the advertising guidelines The Torch imposed, forcing the advertiser to include the words “21 and over.”

Never mind that The Torch has many readers who are in fact “21 and over.”

Never mind that The Torch had printed articles regarding the dangers of collegiate binge drinking, university-offered Alcohol and Other Drug Awareness programs, and editorials excoriating the parasitic bar/club fliers that pollute our hallways and stairwells.

This entire situation pales in comparison to this past week’s occurrence, where a woman with a particularly sweet voice questioned why The Torch was printing racist material.

After a discussion with the woman regarding the exact nature of the story that she was so enraged about, it became apparent that she was making reference to an advertisement placed by the Director of Campus Activities.

The advertisement, a calendar of campus events, made reference to a program put together by Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. entitled “The 2nd annual Rosa Parks Day.” The program was a two-part lecture in which “students of color” were asked, “to sit in the front of their class” in order to honor and reflect upon the legacy of Rosa Parks.

After explaining this, the woman promised to look into the matter further, but still contended that she felt it was racist.

This entire episode reminded me of a phone message that The Torch received in early December, where an angry reader claimed that the newspaper was racist and promised to report us to the ACLU.

Why? Because a column about the women’s basketball team in the Courtside issue did not mention any of the three white players on the team.

This was an oversight at most, but I would not even venture that far considering that a column is clearly defined as the opinion of the writer, not the newspaper as a whole.

The one thing that it definitely was not was calculated racism.

The one consistency is the lack of journalistic knowledge and acceptance.

People are ignorant as to what journalism is.

Journalism is the unabashed pursuit of information and truth that affects people.

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Sometimes the truth illuminates.

However it always makes for a more informed student body. A better student body.

Though this is a private university, it is still an institution of higher learning that has a journalism program. To not fully recognize the inherent needs of students attempting to learn is not only regressive in regards to the University’s mission of education, but it is also hypocritical.

The mission statement reads: “As a University, we commit ourselves to academic excellence and the pursuit of wisdom which flows from free inquiry, religious values and human experience. We strive to preserve and enhance an atmosphere in which scholarly research, imaginative methodology, global awareness, and an enthusiastic quest for truth serve as the basis of a vital teaching-learning process and the development of lifelong learning.”

A vital and vigilant student newspaper is inherently basic to a vibrant college campus. A strong newspaper aids involvement and community, two aims of the University as a whole. If nothing else, view it as a means to an end, provided that end is greater student involvement and standards.

From the vision statement, released in Nov. 2001, St. John’s University states that “Through innovative teaching, research and service we will foster rational, spirited inquiry and intelligent reflection. Our student-centered approach will be shaped by a caring, energized, nimble culture.”

Does spirited inquiry and intelligent reflection not apply to student journalists?

If so, we certainly do not have a student-centered approach with a caring, energized, nimble culture.

We have generalizations, ignorant comments and the stifling of education.

 

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