This week, the editorial staff of New York University’s (NYU) Washington Square News (WSN) announced that all 43 members would be resigning from their respective posts. Their decision comes after the paper’s new editorial advisor, Dr. Kenna Griffin, fired WSN’s editor-in-chief without giving notice to the rest of the staff.
A college or university’s sponsoring of their newspaper should not obstruct student journalists’ ability to do their job and hold institutions accountable through the power of the pen. We at the Collegian applaud WSN’s bold stance against its administration, and believe its actions serve as a beacon for collegiate newspapers across the country.
According to WSN staff members, Griffin consistently exhibited abusive and unprofessional behavior, including belittling the staff and mentioning confidential information about their personal lives. Griffin also reportedly engaged in discriminatory practices, including pressuring an editor “to reveal their ‘real name’ after the editor disclosed their non-cisgender gender identity” and stating that racism “is a matter of subjectivity.” These comments are more than just problematic; both represent a grotesque ignorance in the face of the systemic inequities that we, as journalists, have a duty to bring to light.
While the WSN staff has not permanently resigned, it has provided a list of necessary conditions for their return to the paper. Namely, they are calling for Griffin to resign, but they are also demanding a closer and more cooperative relationship between the publications board, future editorial advisors and WSN editorial staff. At the same time, WSN, as the staff points out, “should not be labeled as an ‘independent’ news publication, as it is intertwined with the Journalism department and its very existence depends on the emotional and financial support of the university.” In providing WSN resources for their publication, NYU also has a responsibility to respect the student journalists who provide a service to their community.
In order for any institution — be it one of higher education or otherwise — to function at its best, it must accept criticism from its members. Student journalism is one of the most powerful ways for campus communities to check university power. For an NYU employee to use an editorial advisory role that is specifically designed to support and encourage student journalists to do the opposite is not only a disservice to the WSN staff, but it is also a testament to the value NYU places on student journalists themselves.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Sophie Krichevsky ’21 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.