The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘They’ve got a fight on their hands’

Three+students+walk+outside+the+Student+Memorial+Center+%28MSC%29
Photo by Robert O’Brien

Three students walk outside the Student Memorial Center (MSC)

Following university President M. Katherine Banks’ demand on Thursday, Feb. 10 that The Battalion cease printing, students and supporters have responded with their views.
Students, journalists and Battalion supporters have taken to social media to voice their opinion on the decision, using #SaveTheBatt to raise awareness about the demand.
International studies senior Alexia Hernandez said she was taken aback by Banks’ decision.
“I was surprised, taken off guard,” Hernandez said. “However, at the same time, I was suspicious of why this had happened considering that there has been other developments very similar to this such as with Memorial Student Center Town Hall. I was surprised, but at the same time, I wasn’t. I was just outraged that the university felt that it could strong-arm an independent student organization into basically doing what it wants.”
Hernandez said she believes student expression is incredibly important, especially now, in a time when expression can be controversial and people may not always agree with one another.
“It doesn’t matter if you agree with what is being written or said as long as you have the right to do so,” Hernandez said. “I think that’s what America is founded on. I think it’s founded on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression and I think that’s what makes America so great. What makes A&M so great is that it has prided itself on being a free speech institution and hosting a variety of different ideas from all sides of the aisle. To me, that’s why it’s important to have that independent student voice that is reporting on what’s really going on, even if university administration doesn’t want to shine any light on the events or issues that are happening on campus.”
As a leader in the #SaveTheBatt movement, which is unaffiliated with The Battalion, Hernandez said the group has been focusing on digital advocacy, reaching out to different stakeholders who may be interested in supporting the movement and getting as many eyes on the issue as possible.
“I created a flyer that we distributed at Aggieland Saturday — we distributed about 700 flyers to prospective students and their families to educate them about what the university administration is doing to The Battalion,” Hernandez said. “We educated people who were interested on how they can get involved and why this matters, not only for The Battalion, but for the state of free speech on campus and the state of free expression on campus and student autonomy. We have been working strategically to keep in contact with student government, as well as brainstorm some ideas for how we can support The Battalion in any way we can.”
Sociology senior Gwen Howerton said she grew up reading The Battalion, even before attending Texas A&M, and has always found it to be good source for community events and news.
“Free press is one of the core foundations of our country,” Howerton said. “It’s a great way to keep things transparent and to hold people in power accountable. It’s a great way for people in the community and students to just know what’s going on in their community and at their university. I think that, regardless of political slant, it’s important to have a good newspaper. If The Battalion was a super conservative newspaper on campus, I still think it would be completely disrespectful and inappropriate for the administration to try to exercise control over it. Free press is important, no matter what your stance is.”
As a member of KANM student radio, Howerton said she believes the university’s recent actions representing its general view on student media.
“It is part of a broader course of action from the administration that shows complete disrespect to student leaders and student organizations and the independence that comes with them,” Howerton said. “It’s important that every student organization on campus, regardless of what they do, comes together for this because it shows kind of about what the university admin[istration] thinks of student [organizations] and student leaders and students in general.”
Journalism junior Peyton Reed said journalism, without the freedom of the press, is propaganda by a higher authority.
“You can’t censor journalists in any way,” Reed said. “It is not journalism. As an institution of higher learning, [A&M] should be supporting proper journalism, because there’s enough issues right now in the world with journalists who are, who have agendas. And, Texas A&M shouldn’t be discouraging the freedom of press. It’s wrong and it’s embarrassing to take away a journalist’s right to write what they have seen and what they believe and what they’ve done research and hard work on. You can’t censor that.”
It is hard to silence all the voices in support of The Battalion, and the fight is nowhere near done, Reed said.
“I think it means that they’ve got a fight on their hands,” Reed said. “There are a lot of people from a lot of different places that are very, very upset about this. And I think that if A&M thought that we were going to go down without a fight, they’re horribly wrong.”
Biomedical sciences junior Lauren Cramer said she is disappointed in Banks’ decision to end a longstanding tradition without input from The Battalion’s leadership, members, staff adviser or other levels of administration.
“This is such an old tradition, even before World War I. If she takes this away, what’s stopping her from taking away anything else?” Cramer said. “Tradition: it’s important to everyone in different ways. If you pick and choose which traditions are important, how are you going to find value in traditions?”
Cramer said if The Battalion were to cease printing, it would affect the lives of Aggies across multiple generations.
“I have a friend taking an entomology class and he was talking about how his professor was really disappointed that The Battalion was asked to stop printing,” Cramer said. “He’s an older man, and he wakes up with his coffee every [Thursday], he’ll read the print version of The Battalion and he looks forward to those mornings. I can definitely see how disappointing it would be for someone else.”
Cramer said she is most disappointed in Banks’ response and her failure to see the importance of print journalism.
“Either she’s choosing not to see the importance or she’s not qualified for her leadership position,” Cramer said. “I think it’s wrong of her. A&M is based on community that I just don’t understand how she, as president, can cancel the words of the student voice.”
Philosophy freshman Ruby Brand said The Battalion shouldn’t be censored because readers need the whole truth of campus occurrences and not just pieces of it.
“I know people who pick up copies for memories, like for instance the [Ala]bama game or Silver Taps,” Brand said. “The Batt refills newsstands on Thursday — the next day, it’s already halfway gone. I see how fast the newspapers are read. We need to have student newspapers so that students can have a voice on campus and so people can actually hear about and see life at A&M.”

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