Editor’s Blog: To address controversy over recent opinions

Julia Rentsch

Dear readers,

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The week of Feb. 19- 25 gave us some unseasonably warm weather, but things were also heating up in other ways; namely, the angry reactions to some of the opinion columns we published.

For some background, our top five most-read stories of the week were:

  1. An opinion writer’s view that blurring gender roles has caused a decline in healthy romantic relationships
  2. The ACLU’s reaction to Fort Collins’ proposed sit-lie ban
  3. An opinion column arguing that emotional support animals should not be permitted in the classroom
  4. Tony Frank’s visit to the Fort Collins Islamic Center in support of the Muslim community at CSU, and
  5. A report about a student group’s concern over the conditions of the aging Clark Building, which also topped our most-read list of articles last week. 

To address the offending opinions about emotional support animals

Two opinions about emotional support animals in classrooms caught particular public ire this week. The above-mentioned column argues that the CSU rule disallowing emotional support animals (not service animals) from classrooms should be kept in place; the second column argues that ESAs should be allowed to accompany students everywhere that service dogs may, and that the rule should be abolished.

Readers disparaged the authors for allegedly misunderstanding the regulations and purposes for owning an ESA, and for writing with a callous tone disrespectful to people with disabilities. Additionally, claims made in both articles were not at all well-sourced; for all of these things, I must apologize on behalf of our organization.

While I believe both articles were poorly articulated, the bigger problem was that this head-to-head was not well conceived. There has not been, to my knowledge, any official talk of changing the rule that keeps ESAs out of classrooms, though CSU students do discuss the presence of service animals in lectures amongst themselves. A better treatment of this salient topic is with a basis in fact, not just feeling, is in order.

Here, it feels necessary to remind readers of our status as a teaching organization — we appreciated your cordial responses and critiques of our mistakes in this instance, which will be used as a lesson for all involved about what constitutes poor material. 

I will not be un-publishing the offending articles, however, for several reasons. The first is that, as part of the opinion section, it must be assumed and accepted that the claims made are subjective. No matter how wrong some may feel that the authors were, if there were readers who agreed with the content, it is our responsibility to address their opinions as well. We do not tolerate hate speech (via Merriam Webster: “speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people”) but what was published in this instance was not that, by definition. Narrow, yes; abrasive, yes; but, those do not constitute reasons for removal. 

However, we will strive for the quality of our columns to eclipse that of those discussed. 

Other updates 

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This week, we made some tweaks to the site, including the addition of a “sponsored content” section on the topmost menu bar. Here, you can find old favorites including the Beer Me! blog, which is being brought to you by four local breweries and two new hosts, Franklin Conley and Casey Robinson of Rocky Mountain Student Media’s Student Video Productions department. Our venture into native advertising is due to declining revenue from our traditional advertising sales, which have gone down due to the decreased value of a print ad in the age of the internet. (When is the last time you scoured the classifieds?) 

Additionally, some readers may have noticed a lack of longform content on our site this academic year. We have been trying to rebuild our staff of investigative writers after losing most of our senior writing staff to graduation or other jobs. While we have been training younger reporters in practical reporting, our ability to investigate complicated, sensitive topics that may be both important and timely has been impacted. I regret this deeply. This content area is under new management as of this week, however, and we look forward to seeing more longform in the near future.

We are continuing to hold weekly community meetings at the Ramskeller on Fridays from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Come by with questions or comments about our reporting, and my colleagues and I will seek to shed some light on our process. I explain our reasoning for beginning these meetings, and this transparency initiative as a whole, in this letter that ran in print and online a few weeks ago.

Thanks as always for reading, liking, watching, and following.

‘Til next week,

Julia

About the Editor’s Blog: In a quest to become more transparent about what we do and how we do it, the Collegian has launched a blog written by the editor-in-chief that details the latest goings-on with our paper. To help me feel like I’m not just speaking into a void (or to voice your questions, comments, derision or best puns for my entertainment), feel free to tweet at @julia_rentsch, message us on Facebook or email editor@collegian.com.