On Thursday, Oct. 17, a letter signed by President Marc Johnson arrived in the email inboxes of all undergraduate and graduate students. The letter addressed campus climate, recent events regarding free speech issues and demonstrations of anti-semitism across campus.
Some students are calling for President Johnson to take a stronger stance against these incidents and the ideology motivating the events. Additionally, students are accusing President Johnson of “protecting racists” through the use of flyers posted across campus and on social media.
On Monday, Oct. 7, students and faculty wrote an open letter addressed to President Johnson saying the administration’s response to acts of racism and conservative groups on campus has been inadequate. As of today, over 1,500 students, faculty, alumni and community members have signed the letter.
“By choosing not to take a substantive stance against white nationalist tactics, the UNR administration creates a campus atmosphere that enables such tactics to continue and even flourish,” the letter read.
All statements from President Johnson prior to the one from Thursday, Oct. 10 have been vague. It is arguable the newest letter is also vague and does not ridicule one group one way or another.
On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 17, a representative from the University of Nevada, Reno’s communications department reached out to The Nevada Sagebrush’s Editor-in-Chief to ask if we would run the letter in our paper and/or on our website.
On the morning of Friday, Oct. 18, the Coordinator of Student Publications and Marketinga Ally Gravina received a call from the Office of Marketing and Communications asking if the Nevada Sagebrush would be running the letter in our publication or writing a story on it. When Gravina told the representative she was unsure, the representative requested to place a full page advertisement in our paper. The advertisement would feature President Johnson’s letter in its entirety.
The Nevada Sagebrush Editor-in-Chief Olivia Ali told the communications department representative we would not be running the letter in their publication. After much debate and a lot of thought, The Nevada Sagebrush decided to go forward with allowing the university to place an advertisement featuring the letter.
The decision was not an easy one. As mass communicators, we understand the impact a full page advertisement in a newspaper can have. If the university would like to pay for the full page advertisement, they have the right to do so, just as our other advertisers do.
In the interest of transparency, it is worth noting The Nevada Sagebrush does not run all advertisements offered to us. We value our platform and therefore do not run advertisements featuring profanity or obscenity. While the content of President Johnson’s letter may be upsetting or not firm enough for some, it is not profane or obscene.
The Nevada Sagebrush would not have ran the letter ourselves either way. We want it to be clear that we didn’t say no to publishing the letter because we thought an advertisement may be the alternative. The communications department representative requested the advertisement contract after Gravina had said she was fairly certain we were not running it.
As the independent student newspaper of the University of Nevada, Reno, The Nevada Sagebrush reserves the right to be critical of the institution. The Nevada Sagebrush aims to be the watchdog of the university administration and community.
The Nevada Sagebrush does not receive funding for the primary reason of needing to be editorially-independent to serve our function. Our newspaper receiving operating or wage costs from the university or ASUN would mean potentially sacrificing to our editorially-independence that allows us to tell the stories we need to tell.
However, The Nevada Sagebrush receives advertising revenue from these institutions from time to time. Because the only money collected from the university and ASUN is from advertising revenue, these entities do not have any editorial call in our content.
We value our editorial freedom, and we hope you do, too. Many student newsrooms do not have the means to sustain independence from their universities. Many student newsrooms are told they are supposed to portray their institutions in positive lights all the time. The Nevada Sagebrush is incredibly lucky to have support from the community in the form of advertising revenue to sustain its independence. Without it, we couldn’t tell the stories that need to be told, inform the public of what they need to know or be the watchdog necessary for any community.
The Nevada Sagebrush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @Nevadasagebrush.