The JHU College Republicans released an official statement on Sept. 26 endorsing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The one-paragraph brief was posted on their Facebook page and garnered significant critical attention from the student body. Three weeks later, the College Republicans posted a longer statement explaining their decision, citing Trump’s experience as a negotiator and his tendency to be critical of both sides of the political aisle as qualities that bolster his candidacy. The statement then took a contradictory and confusing turn when the group did not encourage students to vote for Trump despite their endorsement
While the College Republicans admirably want to protect the free speech of Trump supporters on campus, the uncertainty that pervades the second post reflects a worrying trend. The Editorial Board recognizes that being a Trump supporter on a college campus is difficult. But the lack of a pro-Trump voice to counteract the political mainstream has precluded the paper from covering the presidential election as fairly as we would like. We hope that College Republicans will trust The News-Letter in the future because it is part of our mission to ensure that all student voices are given the chance to be heard.
Aside from this vague statement, though, College Republicans has refused to clarify their position further. The News-Letter’s News & Features section has repeatedly reached out to the group for over a month, and we, the Editorial Board, find their silence concerning.
The rise of Trump has fostered a growing distrust in the media and journalists in American society. As student journalists, we find this trend alarming. The last thing the United States needs is a more polarized political landscape. After reaching out to both the board and individual members of the club, our reporters were ignored or deflected. Since the statements were undeniably campus news, our paper was obligated to cover the endorsement because of its controversial nature and the resulting backlash.
This situation is reminiscent of our recent attempt to run a news article about the new Chapter Assessment Program (CAP) program implemented this year by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. CAP ranks Greek organizations based on University-decided criteria. The program is unpopular among some students, but the News & Features team was unable to get a single member of Greek Life to go on the record criticizing it. That week, The News-Letter ran a similar editorial that expressed understanding of the reluctance to speak out, but called on Greek Life to voice their opinions honestly and openly with us. If students feel uncomfortable speaking frankly to their student newspaper, free speech becomes threatened.
The News-Letter cherishes its core mission of providing a fair and inclusive record of what happens at Hopkins. We want to continue striving for that goal.