Editor’s note: We previously published claims about a certain student organization that relied on the credibility of a source we now know to have misled us. We have since retracted those claims.
We, the editors of the VPR, have penned this piece to reaffirm our mission and clarify to our readers, detractors, peers and contributors that we will not waiver in our commitment to create a platform for political, social and financial commentary and journalism that is both pluralistic in nature and of the utmost quality in both form and substance. This goes for any political debate, including the most contentious and controversial ones such as Israel/Palestine. Our mission, originally affirmed in our constitution, states:
“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 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–and provided it is not racist, violent or otherwise overtly hateful, misleading or purposefully provocative–should be worthy of publication, We believe that ideas are strongest when they are subject to opposing viewpoints.”
What do we mean by this? We have observed on campus a political culture in which activists and those who subscribe to certain schools of ideological thought dominate the conversation, sometimes for good or but too often for ill. We strive to create a platform, and eventually a campus-wide discourse, where the loudest few voices do not overpower the soft many. Furthermore, we believe no idea is infallible and no ideology immaculate: every belief, perspective, ideology should be debated and scrutinized. This not only allows for a more intellectual discourse and a stronger societal understanding of each other’s perspectives but makes us stronger political and rhetorical actors. In this context, indefensible ideas are exposed to be just that, while superior ideas prevail in the sphere of public opinion.
There are caveats to our defense of a free exchange of ideas, of course. Just as the amendments in the Bill of Rights all have reasonable limitations on the freedoms for which they provide, so too does our commitment to defending freedom of press have an endpoint. As our constitution states, we will not publish ideas that are “racist, violent or otherwise overtly hateful” opinions. Neo-Nazi, white supremacist and racist ideas have no place on our platform, as we do not believe those ideologies have a valid and positive purpose in society. Often, such viewpoints lead to violence and oppression towards certain groups. Furthermore, will likely refuse to publish pieces that directly attack groups of people with few substantial warrants. We will not publish pieces that are misleading or dishonest, or pieces that are purposefully provocative while offerign no real value to the larger discussion.
Note that our mission statement does not include a caveat for controversial or even potentially “offensive” subjects. That brings us to Israel/Palestine, a heated subject in any forum but one that evokes particularly raw and contentious debate at Vassar. We at the VPR view this debate as having two valid sides, both with substantial enough bases of support to make them mainstream opinions.
A Gallup poll in February 2017 found that 71% of Americans have a favorable view of Israel while 27% held an unfavorable view of the nation. This is roughly 327 million people in America with a favorable view and 88 million with an unfavorable view, and that’s not counting the billions of people worldwide with opinions on the matter, including the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Both major political parties have platforms on the Israel/Palestine conflict (and we’ve seen high profile internal conflict regarding these positions at times), there are lawmakers on both sides of the issue and it’s an integral part of America’s foreign policy. We view both sides of this argument as valid and worthy of a platform, and only entertaining one side of the argument is, by not allowing contested debate, basically as valuable to the general good as having no argument at all.
Often in debates about this subject, tactics are employed by both sides wherein they attempt to shut down the other side and consequently “win” the argument. We have seen this firsthand in both the internal and external operations of our publication. However, we will not capitulate to the tactics of any interest group when they try to force us to take action antithetical to our mission.
To publish the arguments of one side in a given debate stands firmly in opposition to our commitment to a free exchange of ideas. We are happy to work with SJP, JVP, VOICE and any other interest group, and are committed to respecting their stances and preserving their voices in our editing process. But respect is a two-way street: any group that we work with must respect our belief in healthy two-sided debate, even if a given group doesn’t agree with a belief or perspective that we may publish. This is our mission, and we will not deviate from it.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Vassar Political Review’s editorial board.