Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brody's Notes... College Of DuPage Student Newspaper Answers Critics

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) NOV 9 | The editorial staff of the College of DuPage student newspaper, The Courierlocated in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, in response to a national outpouring of heavy criticism and outrage, stemming from a letter to the paper's editor that was published October 29th responded with a clarification in this past Friday's edition. The letter was written by local resident and controversial Anti-Gay activist Wayne Lela, who opined:
"The central, critical issue is... Is homosexual activity a human right? The answer in short form, is clearly NO. It's not a human right anymore than sex between a father and his consenting adult son or daughter is a human right; or any more than certain other sexually aberrant acts involving consenting adults."
Lela is titular head of an organisation called Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.), based in neighboring Downers Grove, Illinois.
The story took on national scope after an angry reader sent a copy of that edition to the editor of the  national LGBTQ political blogsite, Towleroad.  After publication there, the story was picked up and carried by several LGBT media outlets including The Advocate.
The majority of persons writing and e-mailing the Courier after the letter's publication took extreme exception to Lela's letter and according to the paper's Editor-In-Chief, Vikaas Shanker, extrapolated from the fact the Courier ran Lela's letter, his viewpoints were apparently opinions held by the paper's own staff and the college itself
Speaking in an interview Friday, Shanker said in his opinion, it was a matter of censorship and free speech issues, which he felt as Editor-In-Chief, he was obligated to uphold those principles no matter how objectionable the contents of Lela's missive were. He also pointed out, Lela has been writing these letters to the Courier with similar content going back over several years.
BL: Were you surprised by the level of attention publishing Lela's letter gave your paper?
Shanker: No, I guess it comes with the turf.
BL: Your email box and voicemail were probably overflowing with reactions once Towleroad and The Advocate ran the story nationally. What is your take on typical responses to the letter?
Shanker: First I need to state that the point that was missed was that by publishing the letter, we were simply keeping his First Amendment rights and what I think everybody missed and the blogs left out was near the end of the editorial page where we state that it didn't represent our views or the college's. I mean, I have my own personal views on the subject and so does the other staff but we don't endorse what he said.
BL: You felt that by not publishing his letter, that what, it would be considered a matter of censoring his views?
Shanker: Absolutely I feel it would have been censorship. Mr. Lela is a member of the college's community and he's here all the time with a table handing out brochures and speaking to students. He also writes letters to the paper about this time every year and for at least the last 5 years The Courier has published them. I want to say that we on the Courier do not agree with his positions and if you look you can see that generally we support the LGBT community.
In a letter also published in the Friday edition, the College of DuPage's on-campus Pride Alliance organisation's officers supported the paper's decision to run Lela's letter while voicing opposition to its contents. They noted that attempting to find reasonable evidence supporting Lela's claims were a failure and left a sour taste in their mouths.  They suggested that it should be better suited from a moral perspective to search for solutions to sexual abuse and traumatic sexual incidents versus overreaching concerns regarding a person's sexuality.
Attempts to reach Mr. Lela for comment were unsuccessful.