The Anarchy Gauntlet: Ad-Lawrentian Amnesty

 The Anarchy Gauntlet is a column attempting to move away from my more traditional Marxist-themed articles to a framework centered around anarchism, which better reflects my beliefs. Anarchism advocates for the end to unjustified hierarchies from boss-worker relations to even parent-child dynamics as we know them. Anarchists believe in the same post-capitalism, communist society as other far-left groups but differs in the practice and means of achieving that society. These ideas of anarchism will be inherent throughout these articles. 

     A specter is haunting The Lawrentian: the specter of the LU administration. And not the kind of sexy, mysterious specter like Winifred Boynton’s ghost of Björklunden, but rather those slimy, domineering poltergeists of Hillary Duff’s  Casper Meets Wendy  (1998), namely Casper the friendly ghost’s trio of uncles. 

     You see, I’ve kept a close eye on The Lawrentian’s publishing choices for the past four weeks, and I’ve noticed a pattern. There has been a high rate of granting the Lawrence administration a free platform, on the front page and in the news section, without any sort of critical lens. 

    Of course, The Lawrentian has a history of debacles when it comes to prioritizing students’ voices, particularly those of marginalized students. Whether it’s Cultural Expressions or Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the newspaper falls flat. 

     Yet, in past years I’ve personally never noticed any regularity with which The Lawrentian platforms the administration like it has this term. Perhaps it’s because of the pandemic and LU’s financial losses, and the administration is playing catchup with its public perception. The why doesn’t matter, though, because I’m here to talk about the what and its implications.

     The best place to start is looking at the order of Lawrentian publications throughout this term. Week two, the first release of the newspaper, featured Mark Burstein’s announcement of stepping down as Lawrence’s president at the end of this year. That’s pretty standard fare, big news, worthy of front-page type stuff. 

     It did go a little further into detail than necessary about all of Marky Mark’s grand accomplishments, though. Not only does this gloss over some of the more problematic parts of his presidency — the lack of administration-student communication, the ongoing dismiss of marginalized students and the fact that we pay one LU staff member tons more money than he needs — it also ignores the people who were essential to these achievements: the students, staff and faculty who put in work, often unpaid work, to improve the community for everyone. Such is the flaw in the so-called “great man theory.”

     Now, the front-page article for third week was a much bigger red flag for me. It was a much more blatant advertisement for Dr. Barrett’s efforts as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty, whatever all that entails. The article’s title itself, “Anti-racism commitment sparks institutional change,” is a rather liberal view of what kinds of changes are needed for real justice. 

     Merely initiating conversations about race is quite a low bar for “sparking institutional change,” something that actually requires a great deal of commitment, honesty and humility on the university’s part if it wants to build a healthy relationship with its marginalized students. The fact that Dr. Barrett’s “initiatives” are so lauded becomes heinous in light of the administration’s response to on-campus hate speech. 

    When some anonymous bigots had graffitied hate symbols at LU, what messages did the administration communicate to us all? Oh yeah, when confronted with hate-speech, try to calm your breathing and have an open discussion with the bigot in question. Wrong answer. Not to mention that this article was published on the same day as the student protest against the administration’s very lack of meaningful action against hate and injustice.

     Speaking of which, what was fourth week’s front-page news article? It was coverage of the student protest, half of which was a chance for Dr. Barrett to provide her own perspective and defend the administration. In the name of “journalistic objectivity,” we give equal opportunity to the marginalized and the very administrators who are first-and-foremost beholden to the LU board of directors and wealthy donors. 

     Moreover, Dr. Barrett was only one of the countless faculty and staff who had dismissed and actively hurt marginalized students that were called out for accountability at the protest. Delegating this one administrator as the university’s representative in the matter, especially in this Lawrentian article, allows Lawrence to both ignore the issues rampant through its faculty and staff while pinning blame onto Dr. Barrett rather than the university’s power structure.

     Let’s talk about Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Ad-Lawrentian politics involving Indigenous Peoples’ Day are especially corrupt in light of the student protest and the university’s so-called “diversity initiatives.” If you read my article a couple of weeks ago titled, “PUT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY ON THE FRONT PAGE,” you already know a little about why it’s important to give Indigenous students a platform given the history of biocultural genocide and the reoccurring dismissal of Indigenous voices. 

    I’ll reiterate some of that here. We know that in the fourth week edition, The Lawrentian placed the student protest coverage on the front page, coverage which gave equal platform to an administrator. Where was the Indigenous Peoples’ Day article, written by LUNA president Jessica Hopkins and vice-president Taneya Garcia, placed? In features, page seven. 

     Let me say it again for everyone in the back: FEATURES, the same place where we see photos from the farmers’ market and the study abroad program in Athens, Greece — where miscellaneous articles that don’t quite fit into “variety” or “arts & entertainment” belong, not coverage of an important day of celebration, remembrance and learning like Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

     Sure, you could make the argument that the fifth week edition of The Lawrentian published coverage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the front page. Yes, I don’t see anything particularly wrong about the article itself, seeing as it heavily features interviews from LUNA president Jessica Hopkins and vice-president Taneya Garcia and otherwise remains relatively objective. 

     However, when it comes down to it, The Lawrentian chose to give its own article priority over the one written by actual Indigenous students from LUNA. That, and its front-page coverage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was published after the event, rather than beforehand, which establishes it as something that happened rather than a celebratory event to anticipate and participate in. I’m sure the student protestors would’ve encouraged coverage of their protest to be sidelined to, say, page two or three, to make room for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

     I feel increasingly frustrated writing for a student newspaper that seems to sit at least halfway in the pocket of an administration with its head up its own ass. For me, writing here has largely been an exercise in my writing skills and articulating my voice, but I’ve grown quite cognizant of my role as a contributing writer and the newspaper’s implications in larger structures of money and power at Lawrence. 

     I’m not yet sure of what I can really do at my rung of the ladder, but I do know that I will continue to cast my critical lens onto The Lawrentian and the administration it serves much like Sauron’s eye watches for the ring of power.

     The Lawrentian’s erroneous practices speak to the issues of having paid writers’ funds directly managed by the administration, specifically Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale, as well as the fact that newspapers around the world are often beholden to the structures of power and money they call home. 

     Let’s not forget the fact that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and that this inherently creates a bias toward capitalism and against labor justice, or that U.S. media generates consent to imperialism and exploitation among the U.S. populace’s imaginary. 

     Stay awake and stay mindful of the biases in the media you’re reading and how those biases more often than not reflect the larger injustices within our society, or even within our own community.