Smith College Students Say Journalists Must Swear Vow of Loyalty to Their Cause
'By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight.'
Student activists at Smith College are barring journalists from covering their activities unless said journalists first pledge their loyalty to said activists' cause. These irascible protesters believe the Mizzou protesters did not go far enough, apparently.
An event that draws so many people, especially one that concerns a topic of magnitude such as civil rights, is customarily covered by media outlets. But reporters who arrived at the sit-in were met with a clear message: Keep out.
Alyssa Mata-Flores, a 21-year-old Smith College senior and one of the sit-in's organizers, explained that the rule was born from "the way that media has historically painted radical black movements as violent and aggressive."
"We are asking that any journalists or press that cover our story participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color," she told MassLive in the Student Center Wednesday. "By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight."
Smith organizers said journalists were welcome to cover the event if they agreed to explicitly state they supported the movement in their articles.
Keep in mind that this event took place inside the Smith Student Center—a space where the expectation of privacy has to be quite small. And in any case, the students were not holding an event they deemed closed to reporters; they were holding an event closed to reporters who maintain even a shred of objectivity.
Perhaps more disturbing—the Smith College administration saw nothing wrong with this censorious arrangement:
Stacey Schmeidel, Smith College director of media relations, said the college supports the activists' ban on media.
"It's a student event, and we respect their right to do that, although it poses problems for the traditional media," Shmeidel said.
Schmeidel went on to say that the college reserves the right to remove reporters from the Student Center because it's a private campus.
That's true. And yet, as The Washington Post's Callum Borchers points out, Smith's handbook stipulates that "legitimate exchanges of dialogue must proceed without obstruction or coercion from any quarter." Under that rule, certainly a reporter must have the right to cover an event of significant national interest in the Student Center.
Smith's administrators seems to be giving student-protesters the impression that forcing journalists to swear loyalty oaths is a perfectly legitimate way of conducting business. They deserve heaps of criticism for that, as do the students.
(Related: Listen to my recent appearance on The Federalist Radio Hour with Ben Domenech, in which we discussed the origins of safe spaces, recent campus protests, and also Charlie Sheen.)