The last few years have seen phenomenal revolutions in all areas of American society. The worlds of politics, news, entertainment and tech yielded to transformations of historical proportions. Indeed, this century and this era, what some are calling the ‘Trump era’ have brought with them monumental changes to all aspects of life. Vassar, too, has changed much since the Vassar Chronicle was first founded in 1944 and even since it was re-founded in 2010. Since the shocking upset victory of Donald Trump, politics both on campus and nationally just haven’t quite looked the same. Everything we thought we knew about our country and our values has been turned on its head. Vassar has become a changed institution. So too must its media change with it.
One watershed moment of campus politics came in late October, 2017 when William A. Jacobson, a conservative law professor at Cornell University came to speak on the issue of hate speech. Following the choice by the VCLU President of an extremely controversial title, namely “Hate Speech is still Free Speech: Even After Charlottesville,” and subsequent allegations that Jacobson is a white supremacist, Vassar erupted into a fury of heated political debate. I and my co-editor, Alexander Barzacanos, witnessed a student body ill-equipped to grapple with and discuss controversial ideas. We saw a dialogue that was unproductive and toxic, laced with hyperbolic and misleading language that ignored facts in favor of fiction. Our concerns saw no particular group at fault. The problem is not confined to any partisan stance–this is a campus-wide phenomenon. Most political actors demonstrated callousness to the opinions of others and an unwillingness to face inconvenient facts. These attitudes served only to set us back as a society. We decided we wanted to do something about them.
I presented President Elizabeth Bradley with a plan to restart the Vassar Chronicle under a new strategy: unify the campus in open, productive and high-quality debate that presents a diverse range of views and ideologies. Some of these ideas, we agreed, may be controversial and would hopefully generate high-quality debate and meaningful engagement of the student body. This is a continuation of the work I strove to carry out at the Miscellany News. With the support of the administration, as well as the VSA, Alexander and I got to work creating Vassar’s new political publication with a new name and mission.
So Vassar College, we present for your consideration The Vassar Political Review or VPR. Our mission reads as follows:
“The Vassar Political Review’s mission is to raise the quality of political journalism at Vassar College. We seek to make political thought and journalism available to all students at Vassar regardless of their academic focus or political involvement, and to create a dialogue that encourages the inclusion of disparate ideological perspectives and identities. We believe that any well-made argument that is logically sound and backed up by facts, evidence and reason should be worthy of publication. We believe that ideas are strongest when they are subject to opposing viewpoints and ideologies.
We shall work to accomplish these three goals through an online publication which will publish articles on a rolling basis, and shall publish a print edition at least once a semester. Articles will range in size from 300 to 1600 words and we shall encourage creative journalistic entrepreneurship, instituting ideas to further engage and educate readers. Leaders of the Political Review are encouraged to solicit submissions from a wide variety of majors, identities and ideologies and to make published articles available to as many students as possible.”
This mission contains significant differences in style from both The Chronicle and The Miscellany News. These publications have more formal structures separating staff and guest writers, put more stock into their print editions than their online platforms and tend to mostly feature longer articles. Our mission, however, will be similar to that of The Chronicle which reads in part, “The goal of the Chronicle is to raise the standard of journalism and political thought on campus.” We in no way detract from this thinking and wish only to expand upon it.
We hope that by publishing through our new format, we can help to pioneer an innovative and receptive form of journalism that appeals to today’s college students, eager for the consumption of substantive information but seeking more brevity and clarity than current platforms provide. We also hope to include more engaging forms of presenting information such as infographics and creative writing methods like point-counterpoints, conversations, podcasts and other multimedia. By publishing on a rolling basis and having a strong presence on social media platforms, we hope to be a frequent, consistent and welcome presence in campus dialogue.
While we will solely be publishing op-eds for the time being, we would like to branch out into news, analysis and maybe even satire (that’s a big maybe) just as The Chronicle did. For now, however, our focus will be on generating the best possible content, which we hope will stimulate substantive and high-quality debate. Our articles will be split into five categories: Politics, Policy, Financial, Campus/Local and Editorial. We encourage everyone to consider contributing, as we want to publish as many perspectives, ideas and arguments from as wide a range of identities and ideologies as possible.
The world we knew as recently as 2016 is no more. We shouldn’t expect 2018 and subsequent years to cede any more normalcy than previous years. We as journalists, writers and activists must be willing to adapt to the times and face new realities. Our media mustn’t cower in the face of criticism or allegations of “fake news,” but steadfastly charge forth with a mission to inform and educate the general public, and work to solve the problems facing our political environment through truth and knowledge. We hope to do that, and we sincerely hope that many Vassar students will join us. Come elevate the conversation with the Vassar Political Review.
Andrew Solender ’20 is a political science major, the Editor-in-Chief of the VPR, a former columnist for the Miscellany News and a contributor to the Poughkeepsie Journal and Psychology Today.