Ah, autumn has arrived once again at Mississippi State. Yet again we can enjoy football,cooler weather, Halloween and, of course, this year's round of anti-homosexual editorials and letters to the editor.
Last Friday a letter appeared in The Reflector in which the author says that "... publishing an article (in The Reflector) on coming out of the closet is inappropriate." He later adds, "I hope that The Reflector will use better discretion in the future when deciding what is appropriate to publish."
Those comments bring up an interesting questions: What exactly is appropriate for publication is The Reflector?
Well, to begin with, one must understand that The Reflector is a college newspaper. It is not The Clarion-Ledger, The New York Times or The Starkville Daily News, nor should it be.
One need not be Einstein to figure out that college newspapers serve colleges and universities. Because their readership is different than the readership of a commercial newspaper, college newspapers are fundamentally different than commercial newspapers.
Since college newspapers serve, specifically, college audiences, we should ask about the needs of that audience.
Once upon a time, people at universities debated philosophy, religion, politics, science, literature, art and every other category of human knowledge, these debates revolved around such foreign concepts as logic and rhetoric. The existence of such civilized debates is hard to believe in today's world of Montel Williams, Phil Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael, where the volume of one's voice is the sole determinant of the quality of one's argument.
Today, many people think of universities as glorified vo-tech centers, places where people earn degrees so they can get higher paying jobs than they could have gotten without the additional schooling. Well, a truly educated person should come away from college knowing more than how to perform a set of robotic instructions.
Ideally, The Reflector should be able to present intelligent articles on subjects such as homosexuality. News stories, editorials and letters to the editor should be part of the university's learning environment, an environment that addresses issues beyond mixing chemicals, drawing blueprints, writing business reports, feeding chickens or any of the other vocational components of a student's education. (This is not to say that vocational learning is not important. It is important, especially in today's high-tech society, but it should not be the sole focus of a university education.)
Unfortunately, the MSU community is unable to handle a debate on anything more controversial than Homecoming Court elections or the evils of those pesky parking tickets.
When anything slightly controversial sneaks its way onto the pages of this newspaper, one or both of the following usually happen: 1) The Reflector is often criticized for publishing junk, garbage, track manure etc., and 2) The author of the controversial piece is personally attacked for even thinking the controversial thought in the first place.
The "Oh my gosh, not everyone thinks like me" syndrome appears time and time again in angry responses to material in this paper. Writer after writer advocates the removal of ideas which the writer finds offensive (especially, for some reason, when the subject is homosexuality).
Readers have a choice: they can stick their heads in the sand and pretend that those people with whom they disagree will go away, or readers can try to learn more about the world in which they live.
Readers of this year's Reflector are fortunate to have a paper which does not shy away from controversy. Those who wish to criticize The Reflector's openness should seriously consider the consequences of advocating the restriction of ideas.