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

The Brazen Word

Los Angeles poet, publisher, and editor Bill Mohr gave a poetry reading at St. Augustine Hall on Tuesday, and he left me with a line that just seemed so applicable to St. John’s today.

“From the outside,” he said, “groups appear homogenous.” Broad generalizations are just so easy to make.

I’ve heard my fair share of criticisms over the past two semesters as an editor for The Torch. I’ve been called a racist, a neo-con, even, strangely enough, a bleeding-heart liberal. Fellow editors and staff writers have been subject to similar critiques.

I’ve heard generalizations about the Torch and other organizations. I’ve heard that The Torch opposes freedom of speech, that we oppose Greek Life, that we are too liberal.

I’ve heard that Student Government, Inc. is lazy. I’ve heard that Tau Kappa Epsilon is a bunch of thugs. I’ve heard that St. John’s administration sucks.

I’ve heard it all.

These are all, of course, na√ÉØve criticisms, as they attribute characteristics attached to individuals to describe entire organizations.

After last week’s Flames of The Torch entitled “Give TKE its Table,” there has been considerable backlash against The Torch’s “endorsement” of TKE. I’m not saying administrators said it, but it has been said.

I’ve been asked, “Why would we endorse TKE?” TKE’s reputation among administrators is, honestly, poor. Flames was not about endorsing TKE, or bashing Darren Morton, the associate dean of Student Life, or standing up for Greek Life. It was a story based in genuine, un-politicized criticism.

It was fair, honest, and appropriately aggressive.

The editorial did not defend TKE, it did not even comment on their alleged misconduct. The criticism lies in, what The Torch determined was, an unfair punishment.

As the editorial explains, TKE was involved in an altercation with the St. John’s lacrosse team. Is the lacrosse team a violent team because a few of its members got into a fight?

Absolutely not.

Is TKE a bunch of thugs because a few of its members have obtained a poor reputation with the University?

No.

But broad generalizations are easy and powerful, so why stop making them?

“From the outside, groups appear homogenous.”

I am willing to make one generalization, though. I think I speak for The Torch when I say that I have no use for political, overly-diplomatic criticism.

In the style of Mohr, let’s get at the heart of what organizations, teams, or stories are about. I am not interested in the implications of “defending” TKE. I have no use for that disingenuous nonsense.

Reading and thinking logically instead of filling in gaps with assumptions and generalizations is vital in any criticism.

Mohr described the 1980 presidential election, a race between Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter, as a choice between cancer and polio. I might not agree with that, but I can respect any honest, genuine expression of one’s opinion.

I respect his critique even more because it addresses individuals, and not groups or genres.

It is fair to criticize an individual editor, a member of SGI, a member of TKE, or an individual administrator. But to say that an organization is wholly bad because of some of the people within the group is just plain stupid.

Groups tend to look homogenous from the outside, that is until you are involved in one. As an editor for The Torch, I can honestly say that the newspaper is not out to get anyone, just as it’s not out to defend anyone.

We are a newspaper, not a political lobby group.

You can trust me on that one.

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