The Yale Free Press Is Bringing Courage Back to Campus
This year the Yale Free Press will treat university students like the adults we are— individuals who are capable of grappling with contentious topics with maturity and intellectual rigor.
Like many campus clubs, the Yale Free Press (YFP) is a decades-old college paper that has risen and fallen with the times. During the pandemic, the YFP nearly died. Last year, an ambitious editor-in-chief brought it back, but unfortunately felt it was necessary to use the pseudonym “Gentleman Jack.” He wasn’t alone—many writers also went by pseudonyms. Why? The Yale Free Press is right-of-center. Journalists are not immune to fear of retaliation for wrongthink, even at (especially at?) the university level. To espouse an opinion deemed unacceptable by campus activists has a real potential to cause consequences for the writer. This year I’m counting on the maturity of my fellow classmates; I’m betting that by putting my real name on the masthead, I can encourage others to own their opinions, and to treat those with differing opinions with kindness and respect.
Yale has developed a reputation as a place where free thought is met with contempt. Undergraduates encircled, vilified, and yelled at a professor who told them they should not need administrators to create a sensitive environment for them. Law school administrators attempted to coerce a student into signing a pre-written apology for using the phrase “trap house” in a party invitation. Multiple federal judges boycotted clerkship applicants from Yale Law School because of its failure to uphold the value of free speech. The university should be a place for vigorous intellectual debate and conversation, but support for this seems to be dwindling as students increasingly demand safe spaces and trigger warnings. Many would gladly trade in their curiosity for conformity if given the chance. It appears some already have.
Yet, as a Yale student and editor-in-chief of the Yale Free Press, I do not see my campus only in terms of horror stories. Nor should I. Last fall, I published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing critical race theory in public schools, followed by interviews with Fox, Newsmax, Quillette, and more. I found a home in the William F. Buckley Institute, a bastion of viewpoint diversity on our campus, and the Yale Political Union, a confederation of primarily conservative debate societies. I wrote for both the Yale Free Press and the better-known Yale Daily News, espousing the benefits of conservative religious practices and even criticizing a free speech debacle at Stanford Law School.
Fortunately, opportunities abound in the viewpoint-diversity network: internships, travel, and high-profile political meetings. On campus, life is good. Friends who disagree with my politics accept me and are too curious to be intolerant. If anything, they view heterodoxy as exotic, exciting, and even a tad rebellious. Professors and administrators are also kind; they have treated me with a sense of care that I can only call familial.
At Yale, as is usually the case in life, the truth of free speech's status lies somewhere between the well-publicized horror stories and rainbow showers described above. It lies in a generation of students who are sympathetic to shouting down controversial speakers and installing cameras in bedrooms to prevent sexual assault, while others still self-censor for fear of becoming the main character in a cancellation story themselves. It lies in campus clubs quietly rejecting students because they are spooked by their political views. It lies in the politicization of every campus institution — tutoring centers, resident life, and religious groups. It lies in freshman orientation programs that refuse to address crime because to do so would be “racist” and to teach students preventative measures against sexual assault because that is “victim-blaming.”
Yale’s campus culture right now is mostly normal, and I am consistently impressed by those with whom I share a campus. I am insistent on the goodness of our students and faculty alike and the goodness of human beings in general. I am insistent on the insatiable appetite of my truth-seeking peers, who are more interested in facts than dogma. I am insistent on a shared common sense, which recognizes the absurdity of ignoring literal safety measures for the sake of political correctness.
For these reasons and more, I am ramping up the Yale Free Press as its editor-in-chief. We are recruiting more writers, and we intend to write more this year. We are tapping into resources for student journalists and creating those resources as we go. For instance, we formed an online network of student journalists from campuses across the country to share tips, opportunities, and offer support. We will cover what other campus papers do not: the issues of speech that lie in between space—those that require nuance and complexity to understand. The “exotic” philosophies— conservatism, classical liberalism, religious traditionalism, and so on—that sharp students are fascinated by but shielded from. The common-sense questions that everyone seems afraid to ask. At the Yale Free Press, we are choosing to treat university students as the adults we are, adults who are capable of grappling with contentious topics with maturity and intellectual rigor.
Yale is a renowned university and a one-way ticket to public influence. Its students must question the day-to-day happenings on campus, and they cannot ask questions if these happenings go unnoticed. Future leaders ought to be immersed in uncertainty if they hope to create something positive one day. That is the purpose of higher education. It is neither professional development nor social justice bootcamp. It is time to think.
On our university's coat of arms, the words “light and truth” are written in Hebrew and Latin. The Yale Free Press has an ambitious goal of keeping readers out of the dark by relentlessly reporting the truth, and we intend to succeed.
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