By Brady Yeager
Today I received a text from the University that read “Undergrads, check your email to activate your FREE New York Times membership for the coming year, courtesy of Student Government Board and CGS Student Government.” Complaining about such a text might seem to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, however I can’t help but see this “gift” as an act of disregard for conservative students, an indoctrination of those in the middle and an affirming pat on the back to the liberal majority amongst the student body.
Liberal bias in academia isn’t a new phenomenon, but a closer examination of a free year of the New York Times may prove to be telling, as a microcosm of how liberal bias affects our education in the United States.
The gifting of the New York Times may seem like a trivial freebie tacked onto an already left-leaning liberal arts education from the University of Pittsburgh, but it is an insight to the means used by those in power to promote a progressive agenda. The New York Times is a liberal publication, and they have been somewhat forthcoming about this, with a past editor in 2004 going so far as to write an editorial explaining their liberal bias on social issues. I don’t fault the Times for having a partisan bias, in fact, I laud this admission.
In August of 2016, the New York Times declared they couldn’t cover Trump fairly as he was a threat to democracy, “playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies”. The New York Times also has had their fair share of large mistakes recently which included corrections. In June, the New York Times issued a correction on their editorial that linked the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) to a map circulated by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) that put 20 Democratic districts in cross hairs.
It’s understood that an author’s bias is an inescapable part of journalism, and announcing this explicitly shows integrity. The lack of any opposing views however, equates run of the mill opinions with unquestioned truths.
As there are two sides to every story, to form an opinion on something in good faith one must hear both sides of an argument with an open mind, dispelling subjectivity and giving credence to truth and logic alone. College is touted as a place for the free exchange of ideas, but without a clashing of narratives, education ceases to stimulate intellectually and only teaches students how to recall the thoughts and opinions of others. Universities often use their perceived monopoly on information to push their narratives to the masses by presenting complex and subjective information in a single, neatly-wrapped box of subtle liberal bias– presented as fact. By exhibiting only one side of a complex issue it becomes easy to interpret a flawed story as unadulterated truth. This is the antithesis of free speech, which promotes a marketplace of ideas, allowing the best ones to prosper and the less fit to fall by the wayside.
Providing students only with the New York Times is an excellent example of this tactic because it paints the newspaper as the pinnacle of truthfulness in the field of journalism: making a left-skewed voice seem centrist and pushing current norms ever leftward. Schools should provide a plethora of newspapers to read as a signifier of the administration’s support of ideological choice, because ultimately, we read what we believe is espousing truth.
The decision to distribute the New York Times alienates conservative students from the accepted progressive path even further than they already are. Just because the Student Government Board has decided the newspaper is accurate doesn’t mean conservatives feel the same way. In fact many of them consider the Times “fake news,” but their tuition is being used to buy a subscription they don’t want just the same. Indeed the sitting president has called the Times “failing” and describes those who work for the media giant as “fools.”
By only providing the New York Times, with no alternative choice for conservative students the Student Government endorses a publication directly in conflict with many student’s core ideological views.Instead, they should present students with a choice between publications, should providing multiple publications prove untenable. Giving each student the option to read a publication they deem real news is only fair.