Peters: Don’t Hijack the Paper

by William Peters | 10/21/14 4:44pm

There is absolutely no doubt that the Greek system has become one of the biggest issues on Dartmouth’s campus. Whether a student is affiliated or unaffiliated, activist or ambivalent, the discussion is next to impossible to escape. The week prior to Homecoming, the paper’s editorial board invited those on campus to submit their takes on the system that defines social life at the College. Their survey was answered with opinions from across all corners of the student body. This helped create the 36-page Homecoming issue, an admirable undertaking that included many diverse voices from our community — and it was completely overshadowed by the editorial board’s hijacking of the paper with its approximately 1,100-word Verbum Ultimum.

As editor-in-chief Lindsay Ellis said in her accompanying letter from the editor, the Verbum is usually published in the Friday issue on page four. In the same editorial note, Ellis stated that the five-member editorial board felt that they were showing the community and the alumni how much is at stake by printing the Verbum on the front page. In big bold letters, the headline read: Abolish the Greek system. This would obviously catch the attention of just about everyone who laid eyes on the paper over the weekend and spark some very heated discussions. Five people — two of whom are affiliated — decided that not only would they show Dartmouth what is at stake, but also declared that the dominant campus newspaper is for elimination of the Greek system. Though the editor’s note explicitly said that the Verbum only reflects the views of the editorial board alone, by putting it on the front page, it had the effect of reflecting the view of The Dartmouth — and by extension, the mainstream of campus — in its entirety.

Since the moment I met Ellis, I have respected her. She has passion and an incredible work ethic. Her dedication to maintaining the objectivity of The Dartmouth, which I have personally witnessed, is often overlooked by so many of its readers. For example, in her tenure as editor-in-chief, she has upheld the policy dictating that opinion writers cannot write for other sections in order to maintain the objectivity she so deeply cares about. But if objectivity is so important, I wonder why she and the other members of the editorial board felt the need to literally put their opinions before those of the rest of their staff and contributing columnists. When people picked up the Oct. 17 issue, they were met with a message that (intentionally or not) imparts: regardless of all other content, The Dartmouth as a whole supports abolishment of the Greek system — a statement from an editorial board about as fair and balanced as Fox News.

Last week’s Verbum took the paper away from the writers. Yes, people were and are free to go through the rest of the Homecoming insert and regular paper — but the front page is the front page, and its effect cannot be denied. The Verbum’s patchwork of narratives that so desperately tries to cite the poor choices of individuals over the past 20 years should have been published in the Homecoming insert along with the rest of the Greek life pieces — pieces that more accurately display the diversity of opinions from leaders on this campus. Under The Dartmouth’s current policies, the editorial board’s members were perfectly within their rights to publish their opinion piece. However, they abused their authority by putting their stance ahead of everyone else’s.

There are some who agree with the editorial board, but their piece by no means reflects the views of all of the paper’s staff. It certainly does not reflect the entirety of the student body, the majority of whom are affiliated or participate in Greek life. The Dartmouth has capable writers on both sides of the argument, as does the community (the paper regularly accepts guest columns).

To the editorial board I say this: instead of abolishing the Greek system, abolish the inappropriate practice of publishing Verbums. Publishing opinion pieces goes against the objective standards editors are supposed to uphold. Let your opinion columnists write opinion columns. You should not hijack the (hitherto mainstream) paper from us or from campus. If you continue to do so, you will see your precious objectivity fizzle away along with the faith of your readership.