Minuteman May Be Saved By UMASS Administration

The latest imbroglio involving student press control centers on a conservative resurrection, charges of slander, and a university administration toe-to-toe with its student government. 

The saga began in December 2008, with the re-launch of The Minuteman, a conservative student rag at UMASS, whose aim is to “expose the corruption and wastefulness that seem[s] to pervade the administration, the history, and the campus life around us.”  Not exactly an objective agenda, but certainly a relevant one given these tightfisted economic times.  (For example, a recent piece documented what the publication calls exaggerated circulation claims by The Daily Collegian student newspaper.)

The Minuteman is independent in spirit, but not in reality.  It is published by members of The Silent Majority, a registered student organization under the general auspices of the UMASS Student Government Association.  Trouble brewed between this Majority and the SGA after a recent story that took aim at what The Minuteman argues is alleged wasteful spending by a student organization with direct SGA links (related online piece and cover of related print edition below).  Some SGA members say the coverage contains a “clear example of slanderous defamation of character, and an intentional misrepresentation of an SGA member [the leader of the student organization under attack].”  The Minuteman editor calls the article’s tone, by comparison, “jokingly mean-spirited.”

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Earlier this month, the SGA approved a motion to conditionally suspend the publication until the Minuteman‘s Silent Majority backers publish an apology ad in The Daily Collegian.   The latest twists: 1) The UMASS administration is rejecting the motion, citing some technicality mumbo-jumbo regarding how it was approved but more importantly citing the need for a free campus press.  2) An SGA member was removed from a follow-up meeting after repeatedly trying to submit a motion to overrule the previous suspension motion.  Things are getting ugly!

The saddest part of the whole affair, to me: The wasteful spending story seems potentially important!  Yet, it has been buried by both parties in dispute.  First, shame on The Minuteman for not realizing that if you want your substance to be considered, don’t put your “jokingly mean-spirited” style foremost in the spotlight.  And shame on the SGA for engaging in what even university leaders are deeming an excessively censorious action to stop student expression. Instead, why not answer the allegations raised by the piece?  This fight will obviously continue- let’s keep it clean from here on out.  

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