Letter to the Editor in the BDH

The Brown Daily Herald was kind enough to publish my letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

I write to express my disappointment with The Herald’s unwillingness to support M. Dzhali Maier ’17, its embattled staff columnist, and publicly defend both its commitment to free speech and editorial independence. Responses to Maier’s columns by students and administrators correctly emphasize The Herald’s salience and influence on this campus, if only to rebuke it. However, The Herald’s influence makes its commitment to the freedom of expression that much more vital. The seat of public debate and argument at Brown resides in its pages. It has a responsibility to protect and defend that space against calls for “accountability” to activist student groups. 

The Herald has also betrayed its obligation publicly to support its columnists, no matter how incendiary their views. A newspaper protects its writers publicly, even if it disagrees with them. It is unfair for a newspaper not to share the risk of bad press with its columnist. Instead of defending Maier and its editorial judgment, this paper has discredited and embarrassed itself by equivocation and apology.

In March 2001, The Herald published a full-page advertisement by conservative activist David Horowitz opposing reparations for African-Americans. In response to the hue and cry of angered students, this newspaper asserted its right to print whatever it saw fit and even went so far as to reprint and redistribute the paper after protestors removed 4,000 copies of the Friday edition from campus newsstands. Now, it refuses even to speak in its own defense. 

Once college newspapers cherished their editorial independence. Now they have become their own censors. 

Nicholas Geiser GS

PhD candidate in political science

A colleague observed in an e-mail that Maier had also written in her column not three weeks before about her difficulties addressing the subjects of race and social justice as someone on the autistic spectrum. The Herald could have at least given her the benefit of the doubt before labelling her columns as racist and slapping a patronizing editor’s note on her columns.