The editor-in-chief of Middle Tennessee State University’s student newspaper, Sidelines, has resigned from his post because of the editorial board’s tacit antisemitism.
Writing for The College Fix, former Sidelines editor-in-chief Matthew Giffin explained that the drama began to unfold after he published a story “profiling a MTSU student worried about his friends in Tel Aviv.”
The piece attracted massive backlash from the school’s antisemitic students on Instagram, and so the student he’d profiled requested that he take down the post for his own safety. To Giffin’s credit, he complied with the request.
But that’s when the problems started …
My latest for @CollegeFix:
Even red state colleges are folding to antisemitism. I experienced it firsthand.https://t.co/D7Bytn6hTO
— Matthew Giffin (@MattGiffin) November 14, 2023
Afterward, the board decided on its own to publish a statement condemning the threats faced by the unnamed student but also impugning the legitimacy of Giffin’s article.
“On Oct. 27, MTSU Sidelines published a profile of a student who expressed his alliance with Israel after the Hamas attack that happened on Oct. 7. It is Sidelines’ goal to cover news equitably. Going forward, we will take care to be inclusive of differing viewpoints,” the statement read.
“The article has been removed from the website out of concern for the interview subject’s safety. The article was not MTSU choosing sides, it was based on an interview and one student’s experience. Sidelines condemns any actions that cause harm in response to an expressed opinion. In a divided world, there must be room for civil discourse. People should feel free to express their opinions without fear of harm,” it continued.
“In retrospect, Sidelines failed to report on the casualties the Palestinian people have suffered and focused only on damage done to the Israeli population,” the statement concluded.
Giffin was not pleased by the latter statement.
“Even though we published my profile story to the Sidelines website days before we posted it to Instagram, the editors and faculty advisor did not say I had ‘failed to report’ on anything until the article had garnered more comments than I have ever seen on a Sidelines piece, nearly all of them from the ‘Free Palestine’ crowd,'” he wrote for The College Fix.
“The editors who worked on the statement and our faculty advisor ignored my several protestations against its wording. Unable to stand behind a dishonest and harmful representation of my story, I resigned,” he added.
In a statement to Fox News, he further noted that he had “decided to step down because I felt the statement that the editorial board and the faculty advisor released was something I couldn’t stand behind.”
“I don’t think they are bad people or antisemitic — I do think antisemitism played a disproportionate role in how the events at the paper unfolded. I still plan to write and speak out about things that are important, whatever the consequences may be,” he said.
“Telling the truth is a lost practice, and I’d like to bring it back. Morality is important for the order and survival of our society. Our way of life will fail if we cave to the influence of those who stand behind terrorists like Hamas,” he continued.
The good news is some big power players have taken note of his activism, including Republican Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais and Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
The rot of harmful ideologies like antisemitism among students at red state colleges is more obvious than ever. Now is the time to say something about it.https://t.co/jCVAnSU2py
— Matthew Giffin (@MattGiffin) November 15, 2023
“It is both abhorrent and outrageous that the sentiment among higher education faculty and a large majority of students is to sympathize with terrorists,” DesJarlais said to The Tennessee Star.
“I commend Matthew for his reporting efforts that were unfortunately squandered by his editorial board and faculty adviser. People like him are needed now more than ever in today’s media,” he added.
Also speaking with the paper, Blackburn said, “I am deeply disturbed to hear about an incident at Middle Tennessee State University where a student spoke the truth and was forced into silence by Hamas sympathizers. It is also unacceptable to hear from university leadership that they are aware of the situation, but will not get involved.”
She continued by arguing what happened is “part of a broader trend across the country where pro-Israel voices are afraid to speak out in the face of rabidly antisemitic students and faculty who celebrate Hamas’ actions.”
“I am glad my bipartisan resolution condemning antisemitism on college campuses and calling on college administrators to act unanimously passed the Senate. Colleges and universities must crack down on antisemitism and protect their Jewish students no matter the circumstance,” she said.
That being said, in a statement to local media, Sidelines’ editorial board reportedly defended their recent actions.
“Sidelines denies silencing former editor-in-chief Matthew Giffin. Late last month, the student editorial board took part in a timely and ethical discussion about the article in question and decided to publish a statement explaining why the article was removed. In addition to addressing the threats to the student being interviewed, the board also recognized an imbalance in the story’s reporting of casualties resulting from the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel. Our faculty adviser, Leon Alligood, did not advise us to take down the article,” they said.
“Our former editor-in-chief decided to retract the story prior to meeting with the editorial board and faculty adviser. Mr. Alligood did not advise the board to publish a statement. After the article was retracted, we felt it was necessary to provide an explanation to our readers. Sidelines is a publication where student journalists learn through real-world experiences such as this. We continually strive for accuracy and balance. We thank our former colleague for his contributions to and leadership of Sidelines and wish him the best in all his future endeavors,” they added.
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