Baylor University President to editors of student newspaper: Your opinions only matter if they agree

Seems the Baylor University students who run the Baylor Lariat student newspaper got into some hot water with the Baptist University’s President and administration for publishing an editorial in support of gay marriage even though it was made clear in the editorial that this opinion was representative only of five of the seven students on the editorial board. To say there was an uproar would be to understate things.

The Baptist Standard :: The Newsmagazine of Texas Baptists

“This position held by five students does not reflect the views of the administration, faculty, staff, board of regents or student publications board, which oversees the Lariat,” Sloan said in a statement distributed to media March 1. “Nor do I believe this stance on gay marriage is shared by the vast majority of Baylor’s 14,000 students and 100,000 alumni.”

The editorial touched off a torrent of response, Sloan acknowledged.

“We have already heard from a number of students, alumni and parents who are, as am I, justifiably outraged over this editorial,” he said.

Because God knows we wouldn’t want an editorial to reflect the honest opinions of the editors writing it.

There’s a few quotes spread throughout the article that I thought did a good job of illustrating why it would be a ‘bad thing’ if this country became a Theocracy. For example, BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade said the following about the incident during an address of the BGCT Executive Board:

“We are disappointed that this small group of students chose to editorialize in support of gay marriage,” Wade said, reading from a prepared statement. “We do respect the students’ right to discuss the issue openly and to voice their opinion, but to do so in an official Baylor publication lends more seriousness than their opinions merit.”

In short, we respect that you have a right to hold and speak your opinions, but unless they agree with ours then they’re not worth much and you shouldn’t use your role as the editor of the student newspaper to editorialize your worthless opinions. Then there’s….

“The student publications policy states that ‘since Baylor University was established and is still supported by Texas Baptists to conduct a program of higher education in a Christian context, no editorial stance of student publications should attack the basic tenets of Christian theology or Christian morality,’” the statement continued.

Which wouldn’t be an unreasonable thing to say had the editorial actually attacked these things. Instead, it addressed the topic purely as a legal issue without commenting on whether it was appropriate that Christianity considers homosexuality a sin. Another telling quote was:

“He was contrite. He said he saw this (the editorial’s position) as a legal issue,” said Daniel, dean of Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. “The publications board took a different view. We didn’t appreciate it.

Oh, I’m sorry. I thought part of the job of an editor of a newspaper was to editorialize what the editors feel is the proper stance on an issue whether the majority of people agree with it or not. Good thing they snipped this one in the bud! Wouldn’t want these students taking those bad habits with them when they go to work at a real newspaper!

Certainly the University is within its legal rights to suppress this sort of thing within student publications they support, but it does raise the question of if it’s ethically right for them to do so if they are truly trying to educate and train people for jobs outside of the church.

12 thoughts on “Baylor University President to editors of student newspaper: Your opinions only matter if they agree

  1. What happens when you have corporate sponsered universities who don’t permit critical editorials of corporate policy or actions. Admitedly religious supression is dangerous but the past 2000 years have shown that in time that tyrany can be overcome. Corporations don’t even have the “morality” that right wing groups claim to have, so anything goes.

    I can imagine the response on the Nestle University website “Students abuse alloted freedoms”
    “The recent inappropriate editorial commenting on the buisness practices of our company in third world countries has led to the university to suspend the students concerned and employ new editors”

  2. So sad.  I read the editorial, and I felt cheered that Baylor (or at least, Baylor’s newspaper editors) could show such generosity.  That BU’s president could make such a statement is beyond painful—hopefully these guys will wake up and smell the zeitgeist.

  3. After reading one of the other letters to the editor (by Alex Bell) I sent in my own letter. Since I know it won’t make it to the page, I’ll put it here too.

    Alex Bell’s letter was well thought out and informative until he states the following. “The reason homosexuals are not a protected class is a result of the nature of their lifestyle. They chose to be practicing homosexuals.” How can anyone in this day and age actually be brainwashed into believing that homosexuality is a choice. He probably thinks that being raised by gay parents will make you gay. That’s just weird. The only way Alex would even know this to be true was if he had made the choice himself. Hmmmm…

  4. I happen to think that gays should be able to marry, but…What can you expect when you attend a Baptist University?!?

    It’s within the rights of the Baptist Church to say that they think homos shouldn’t marry, and the University is an offshoot of the Baptist Church. Blaming the president for spouting the Baptist line is just silly. If you don’t want to toe the Baptist line, Don’t Go to One of Their Schools.

  5. Zachary, you’re aware aren’t you that “homos” is a derogatory term unless you’re gay, and even then it is to me. Try saying what you said but substitute “niggers” and see how it sounds to you.

    Still, I’m assuming you meant it as a blunt term to illustrate how Baptists talk.

  6. Zach, you’re kinda missing my point. I agree that the University is within its legal rights on this issue and I say as much in my entry. The point I was trying to make is that most Universities support Student Newspapers as a means of giving something close to a real-world experience. If the University is going to suppress editorials based on whether or not they agree with them then I question how much value allowing a student run newspaper is at that University.

    It just strikes me as being a lot like what Prada in the former Soviet Union was and most folks there considered the newspaper a joke.

  7. Brock: You are right, I was using “homos” as a blunt term to illustrate how Baptists might talk, as in this cartoon:

    http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/luckovich/2004/022504.html

    (However, the term isn’t nearly as offensive as “niggers.” For instance, you could never print “niggers” on a political cartoon for major newspapers like that.

    Les: I should have made my point better.  I don’t expect colleges - especially religiously affiliated colleges - to even remotely attempt to allow their students to engage in “real-world experience,” which is why I wasn’t at all surprised at what the President of the college said.

    Maybe I’m just too cynical, but I think that most colleges like Baylor exist primarily to give out degrees to people who will become leaders of the social group in the future and keep them out of trouble for four years until they get married. Expecting them to encourage or even allow without sanction truly heterodox opinions is to not understand them, I think.

    This is even true of other colleges as well. For instance, I went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, a very liberal college. Now, I’m a very liberal guy so that was all well and good, but I couldn’t help but noticing that anybody who didn’t toe the line was made to feel extremely uncomfortable. There were pro-choice posters up all over college all the time, but when somebody posted pro-life ones up they were torn down immediately without protest by anyone. Similarly, I am absolutely positive that anybody unwise enough to try to drum up support for the Federal Marriage Ammendment at Wesleyan would be shouted, booed, and made to feel like a leper.

    So, why expect more freedom of thought at a religious college than any other one?  If anything, you should expect much less.

  8. Zachary says: “… I think that most colleges like Baylor exist primarily to give out degrees to people who will become leaders of the social group in the future and keep them out of trouble for four years until they get married. Expecting them to encourage or even allow without sanction truly heterodox opinions is to not understand them, I think.”

    Perhaps I can shed some additional light on the matter as a student at Baylor University.

    While I agree that the administration’s response to the editorial article (while not uncharacteristic) was unfortunate and a disgrace to the realm of academia, I wholeheartedly disagree with Zach’s assessment of Baylor and “college likes Baylor.”  While there are students at Baylor who espouse the Draconian views of our beloved President [Stalin], there are others of us who do our best to ignore Sloan and instead focus on the excellent academic opportunities available at Baylor.  I feel that I have gotten an outstanding liberal education at Baylor, in spite of the administration’s misguided attempts at censorship and “brainwashing” as you call it.

    So Les - I ask the same question: … what the fuck is wrong with our administration?

    At the same time, it would behoove some of you to avoid the same stereotypes that you accuse Baylor of employing as you make unfounded generalizations about Baylor and its students.  A university is more than its administration, no matter how vocal those individuals may be.  My only request is that people look beyond the politics and religious overtones to the quality of the degree that I will receive next spring.

    BTW - Have you seen our campus?  It’s extremely beautiful.  We have the #1-rated parking garage in the state.  *grin*

  9. Ben, thanks for your thoughtful posting.  I’m guessing that what too many college administrators don’t realize is that teaching students to think at ALL will guarantee that they start thinking things outside of what you WANT them to think.  If you do a good job at it, they’ll be real good at thinking outside the box.  Heh, heh.

  10. “I feel that I have gotten an outstanding liberal education at Baylor, in spite of the administration

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