Coalition, UCS members meet with Herald staff, Brown administration
As Brown Police officers and Herald staff members stood guard over campus news racks Monday, members of a coalition of student groups protested against The Herald outside Faunce House and the Ratty.
Unlike Friday, when nearly 4,000 copies of the newspaper were stolen by coalition members, on Monday protesters took their dispute with The Herald outside campus buildings where the newspaper is distributed. Coalition members, dressed in black and wearing white stickers that said “Does the BDH represent you?” passed out fliers explaining their position to passersby.
“Friday’s action was a symbolic act of civil disobedience to draw attention to the fact that Brown University does not have a daily student paper that is accountable to its student body,” the coalition wrote in table slips distributed at the Ratty. “It resulted from repeated incidences of misrepresentation of Brown University’s communities of color by the BDH.”
Outside the Ratty protesters discussed their cause with students.
“We’re just here to talk to people going in and out of the Ratty,” said a coalition member, who didn’t want to give her name.
Representatives from The Herald, which had consolidated some 15 distribution points across College Hill to only four campus locations and posted Herald staff at each dropoff point, expressed relief that the newspaper was distributed unfettered. Brown University Police and Security (BUPS) officers stopped by dropoff points throughout the day.
“The protests were a respectful demonstration of their discontent with The Herald and its coverage,” said Herald Editor-in-Chief Brooks King ’02.
Some students disagreed with the protesters’ stance.
“The BDH at least has a right to let these views be heard on this campus,” Jeffrey Austin ’03 said. “There’s a distinction between attacking speech and voicing opinions.”
“I think that they’ve mixed up their priorities,” Matt Fan ’04 said. “To take away everyone else’s right to read the paper is inconsiderate, disrespectful and presumptuous.”
According to a poll taken by ABC6-TV News of 500 Providence residents, 63 percent support The Herald’s decision to run a controversial advertisement by conservative commentator David Horowitz. Twenty-nine percent oppose The Herald’s decision, and 9 percent are undecided. An unscientific poll of Brown students on the Daily Jolt yielded a similar response.
“We welcome dialogue about reparations, but the Horowitz ad rewrites history,” said Anzetse Were ’03, a spokeswoman for the coalition. “The only thing that links the BDH to Brown is the name and the fact that it is distributed on campus.”
“We did not physically restrain anybody, and we have been misrepresented in the media,” she said, citing an article in Saturday’s Boston Globe.
Were said the coalition would look into forming an alternative campus newspaper in the future.
“This racist attack on black students sets a very dangerous precedent,” said Kenneth Knies GS, a teaching assistant in the Afro-American studies department. “I have talked to students who told me that they can’t perform basic functions like walking or sleeping because of this ad.”
Lewis Gordon, professor of Afro-American studies, defended the coalition’s actions on Friday.
“If something is free, you can take as many copies as you like,” Gordon said. “This is not a free speech issue. It is a hate speech issue.”
Monday evening, at 5 p.m., Herald editors attended a closed meeting with members of the administration, the coalition and the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) at the Office of Student Life (OSL).
“It’s good the University is taking steps to promote dialogue on campus,” Herald Editor-in-Chief Katherine Boas ’02 said after the meeting. “This is the first of many meetings to come.”
“I think the ramifications of printing the ad affect members of the community in adverse ways, and that’s an issue,” director of the Third World Center Karen McLaurin-Chesson told reporters gathered outside OSL after the meeting.
“Right now we need to think about where we’re going and our best course of action for the community,” said Jennie Leszkiewicz ’01, president of UCS.
“There has to be something done this week to address a lot of the heated passions going around right now, and to not have something would be irresponsible,” she said.
Another meeting is scheduled for today at 5:30 p.m., but Herald editors said they may not attend if University officials remain as antagonistic as they were on Monday.
“We would like the University to take a more even-handed approach to this,” Boas said.
“We felt much of the meeting was premised on the idea that one side was right and one was wrong, and we’d like to see the climate and membership of the group change to reflect more of a good-faith effort at a constructive dialogue,” King said.
The text of the Horowitz advertisement is available online at FrontPage Magazine.
This appeared in The Brown Daily Herald on Tuesday, March 20, 2001