It's no secret that there are media outlets that have a tendency to mischaracterize and overblow events for the sake of a story. The New York Post, Fox News, and the Huffington Post, in their recent reporting and editorializing, have done just this, painting Columbia as a disrespectful, anti-military institution based on a brief outburst in last week's town hall meeting on ROTC. The news outlets who have covered the heckling of GS student and veteran Anthony Maschek have taken this unfortunate attack entirely out of context. The ROTC debate at Columbia has been, on the whole, civil and nuanced—a rare and noteworthy occurrence in an age of abusive Internet comments. Professors and students alike have provided thoughtful, engaging arguments for and against the return of ROTC through panels, articles, and University Senate forums. It's inaccurate to see the name-calling against Maschek as representative of the entire debate on ROTC. Furthermore, Columbia has the largest veteran enrollment of all the Ivy League schools, so the claim that Columbia as an institution is hostile to the military is untrue. We do not condone the students who spoke out against the student veteran, and the views that were expressed do not represent the entire student body, or anyone else's but their own, for that matter. It is also unreasonable to hold Columbia students to a behavioral standard that is not expected from the rest of society. Yes, education is meant to teach us something about how to live and act with civility, but we do not claim to fit that mold perfectly by any means. In any case, these outlets have not afforded a level playing field for this debate. The role of the media is not to misconstrue, but to portray news accurately and fairly. It is an easy thing to peg Columbia as an outspokenly anti-military institution; it's another to look at the heckling in its context, as the brief expression of a few students' views—views which were quickly silenced by the moderator. However, this portrayal of Columbia has not detracted from the active dialogue on ROTC, which has knit us closer as a student body despite the many perspectives regarding the debate. It has made us examine the way others see us, and has made us once again value the diversity of opinions we have here. As the last town hall meeting on ROTC is today, we ask all of you who have weighed in on the debate to continue speaking with civility and respect, and we hope that this time, it will happen without exception.
Columbia Spectator Staff