Chronicle for discourse, whether left or right

On Dec. 5, 2013, Julian Hassan ’14, the leader of Vassar’s Conservative Libertarian Union (CLU; formerly, and still officially—according to the VSA—the Moderate Independent Conservative Alliance, or MICA), accused The Vassar Chronicle, its former Editor-in-Chief Will Serio ’13, and myself of attempting to suppress conservative voices at Vassar (The Miscellany News “Conservative ideas continually stifled on Vassar’s campus, deserve to be heard,” 12.05.13 ). According to Hassan, Will and I approached him in our capacities as Editor-in-Chief and Senior Editor of The Chronicle to pressure him to keep Alex Epstein, President and Founder of the Center for Industrial Progress (a for-profit objectivist/libertarian think tank) from coming to speak at Vassar on industrialization, fossil fuels, and divestment.

I will not deny that we spoke with Julian, nor will I deny that I was concerned about how Epstein would affect The Chronicle’s reputation on campus, as The Chronicle was still affiliated with MICA at the time. However, Will and I came to Julian first and foremost as members of MICA concerned about how Epstein would not only affect MICA’s reputation, but also how he would galvanize the divestment movement to take further action. The Chronicle never entered into our discussion about Epstein, nor did we ever use The Chronicle to voice our concerns about him.

Moreover, although the MICA Executive Board granted The Chronicle independent leadership almost three years ago, and The Chronicle had been in talks with the VSA for more than a year (long before MICA had plans to bring Epstein to Vassar) about becoming an official organization at the end of the Spring 2013 semester, Hassan asserted that allegations against Serio in the National Review Online “just seemed to speed up The [sic] VSA’s decision to authorize it [The Chronicle] as an official VSA organization.” He asks Vassar students of The Chronicle: “Do you deserve the company they keep?”

Though I am deeply offended by Julian’s attack on my character, especially the allegation that I lack “values,” I’m willing to forgive him this affront to my person. However, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Chronicle, I refuse to allow attacks on an organization that fosters open discussion on prominent political and social issues and seeks to present views outside of what we perceive as the prevailing political norms at Vassar. To answer Julian’s question: You deserve The Chronicle’s company, not the company of the self-proclaimed defender of campus conservatives who alienates moderate conservatives as he dismisses “ableism” (scare-quotes his) and harmful cultural stereotypes as “non-issues.” To dismiss real oppression as fake has never been a feature of conservative thought, and I hope that Julian can reevaluate his views. I imagine that there are many thoughtful, considerate conservatives on campus that want to engage in open and civil political discussions. I ask those students to consider The Chronicle a space where they can present their views alongside writers from across the political and philosophical spectrum.

The Chronicle serves an important role at Vassar as a non-partisan space for general political discussion. Julian asked readers to reassess the claims made by Kelly Shortridge ‘12 when members of MICA refounded The Chronicle in 2010 (The Miscellany News “Chronicle to further marginalize conservatives” 12.02.10). Shortridge argued that a conservative publication run by a campus conservative group (MICA) would harm the conservative position on campus because it would enable MICA to “preach to the choir” and further self-segregate conservative voices from campus discourse. She argued, rather, that The Miscellany News provided a better outlet for conservative voices because it had no ideological posture.

So, as an independent non-partisan group, The Chronicle meet Shortridge’s litmus test for an acceptable outlet for conservative thought. Indeed, in the past year our journal has published articles from a diversity of perspectives, including conservative articles, such as Spencer Virtue’s series on gun control.

Frankly, I wish we published more conservative voices. Yet, that’s a bit hard to do when the ostensible leader and defender of campus conservatives has rejected Hassan’s attempts to mend relations.

In a recent staff editorial, The Chronicle Editorial Board urged Vassar students to recognize that “though most Vassar students consider themselves liberal, many adopt different theoretical frameworks for analyzing and solving social problems” (“Rhetoric on Campus Affects Solidarity,” 10.01.13).

As a Randian, Hassan seems to be one of those students, and I welcomed his voice in The Chronicle. I approached Julian in the Retreat, apologized for attempting to pressure him, and asked him to write for The Chronicle. A week after rebuking my attempt at civility—and two weeks before publishing his article in the Miscellany News—Julian emailed me and said that he would “change his evaluation of The Chronicle” if we capitulated to certain demands. He asked that I surrender the front page to promoting an open-letter composed by a for-profit think tank (none other than the Center for Industrial Progress) on fossil fuel divestment and that I interview Alex Epstein. I informed him that our editorial policies would preclude such options, and asked him to write an article instead. Finally, I told Julian that I wanted to mend things: “I really hope that we can productively contribute to campus discourse and try to mend some of the tensions between our two orgs. Ideally, I think the political orgs on campus would engage in productive dialogue with each other, and I think The Chronicle offers a great space to do that.”

I do not want people to construe this editorial as hostile towards Julian Hassan, nor towards CLU. I am not opposed to a conservative organization at Vassar. In fact, I think that many liberal Vassar students would benefit from listening to and considering the ramifications of challenges from across the aisle. I wrote this article in the hopes of making it clear that The Chronicle has no political agenda. I hope that Julian can recognize that I am not his enemy, and that he and I can work together to promote a diversity of thought at Vassar.

 

—Zack Struver ’15 is a history major. He is also Editor-in-Chief of The Vassar Chronicle.

 

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