February 3, 2023 at 5:00:00 PM
Talia Cutler '23
If you are literate, you can see that the heading atop this page reads “Opinion.” In simple terms for the modern reader, an opinion can be defined as ”an independent view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.”
I’ve been the Opinion Editor for Mercersburg NEWS since the spring of my eleventh-grade year. In that time, I have been shocked by the amount of pushback I have received on what is published. What makes Opinion unique is that writers can showcase their voices in a way that no other NEWS page allows. There are no quotations, no third-person perspectives, no required objectivity. On this page, writers should be able to say what they mean, unbridled by bland neutrality. However, I’m afraid that faculty members taking offense to opinions published on this page has created a culture in which students feel unsafe publicly expressing their views.
I can’t tell you how many times I have received an email about a piece that was published. At the beginning of my stint as an editor, I was excited to receive feedback about our page. However, this is a feeling that quickly weathered with both time and volume. The emails that Opinion receives in response to our pieces are too often curt, one-sided, and close-minded. Essentially, the agenda that is being pushed is that there is a “right” (agreeing with the school) and a “wrong'' (disagreeing with the school) opinion to hold.
When someone has their opinion published on this page, they should not be called into meetings with faculty. They should not be threatened, intimidated, or bombarded with emails trying to change their mind. None of these scenarios is rhetorical. In fact, there is a general attitude of fear towards having an opinion piece published for all of the aforementioned reasons. This represents a deeper issue: students are afraid to publicly voice their opinions on campus for fear of retaliation. I encourage faculty members to gain perspective; these are students, not enemies. Pieces should be an opportunity for an open dialogue, not outrage.
As I end my run as Opinion Editor, I publish this piece because I am concerned about the chilling effect on student expression because of needless opposition. I have been asked multiple times if I would not like to run more inoffensive pieces about the weather or dining hall food. Not only do I find this personally insulting but demeaning to the entire student body and its intelligence. Personal opinions should not be tamed in order to be considered “publishable.”
I pen my final piece with a note for future NEWS writers, editors, and all students and faculty of the Mercersburg Academy campus who take offense to opinion writing:
If you feel the need to reach out, it should be respectful, open to two-way communication, and because you want to facilitate solutions. When we have the courage to share our voices, please respond with genuine questions, not scripted answers. In short, be helpful. “You’re wrong” and “I do not agree” are not constructive and accomplish nothing. And too often, “I wish you would have spoken with me first” feels insincere. If this piece upsets you in any way, perhaps you might pause and ask yourself why. However, please do not email me (or my co-editor Anish) trying to change my mind, offer me passive-aggressive “feedback,” or take anything I may say or publish personally. This is my opinion, “an independent view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.”