Recently, American Way of Life (AWOL), American University’s progressive journalism publication, decided to inject themselves into the Student Government elections on campus by publishing an article smearing the presidential campaign of Jarryd Delaney. Instead of critiquing or commenting on the substantive policies laid forth by the Delaney campaign, they reverted to personal attacks against the candidate and some conservative views that he held in high school.
The authors of this article object to the presumptions set forth in AWOL’s article on several fronts. First, while the authors generally refrain from objecting to publications from other organizations at AU, they feel that the notions made in this publication are directly at odds with our perspective of the American Agora’s mission. The American Agora’s mission is to promote ideological diversity and substantive political debate on campus by providing students with a forum to have a healthy discourse about the issues afflicting our campus, nation, and world. It is our assertion that by publishing this article, AWOL is fostering and promoting an unhealthy political environment on campus in which students are stigmatized for their political beliefs if they are conservative-leaning.
Second, the authors of this article object to the publication because it neglects an individual’s ability to alter their political views over time. The publication presumes that the thoughts expressed in Jarryd’s Twitter posts from 2015 and 2016 are reflective of his current viewpoints. Specifically, they allege that Jarryd’s progressive campaign is invalidated and discredited by such tweets. This is simply not the case as Jarryd, like the authors of this article, have altered their political views since coming to American University as they have been exposed to new experiences, insights, and perspectives. Being receptive and open to new information and the perspectives of others, we contend, should be highly esteemed as it demonstrates maturity and a willingness to be open-minded. If you believe that your current political views and positions do not differ from those you held in high school, we challenge you to consult your high school teachers, classmates, and social media accounts. More likely than not, your political views have evolved over time.
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Third, the presumptions and biases expressed in AWOL’s publication about Jarryd Delaney foster a political climate on campus in which those with dissenting opinions are stigmatized. While the publication states that students’ concerns with Jarryd’s tweets were centered around the apparent disconnect between his current and former beliefs, the assessment of the authors of this paper is that AWOL’s criticism of Jarryd’s comments is chiefly based on his previous affiliation with the Republican Party and positions. The comments made on Twitter by Jarryd in 2015 are reflective of the positions of the mainstream Republican party, including promoting the free market and free speech, advocating for pro-life positions, and minimizing governmental regulation. Yet, this publication frames his viewpoints as inflammatory and radical. While Jarryd no longer aligns with the thoughts he expressed on Twitter in 2015, fundamentally holding conservative viewpoints does not inhibit one’s ability to successfully perform the duties of the President of AUSG.
Lastly, the authors of this paper deem that it is evident that the publication regarding Jarryd Delaney directly contradicts the stated mission of AWOL. AWOL claims to “work subversively when dismantling barriers that suppress certain voices.” Yet, by allowing this article to be published, they are allowing existing barriers to harden on campus for those holding views that are not “progressive” to express their opinions without fear of harassment, stigmatization, or intimidation. Second, AWOL asserts that, “Our stories have an angle, which is different from having an agenda. Our reporting is impartial and fair.” Yet, the authors of this paper challenge the validity of the claim that the sources for their publication “stumbled upon” Jarryd’s tweets from three years ago, instead of unequivocally searching for damaging information on Jarryd. Further, on this point, AWOL’s reporting was neither impartial nor fair, as the article misrepresented statements made by Andy Lalwani, Jarryd’s campaign manager, in addition to Jarryd’s affiliations with certain politicians and organizations. While the authors of this paper were pleased that AWOL corrected some of the false allegations originally made in their article, we are concerned that AWOL did not alter the underlying arguments of the publication that were inherently misconstrued and rest on inaccurate and incomplete information.
It is our assessment that AWOL and other publications on campus should refrain from making personal attacks on other students, nevertheless candidates for AUSG, and instead, tailor their analyses around making substantive comments regarding the proposed policies of the candidates.
Note: Brad de Ramón has volunteered for the Delaney campaign but coauthored this piece on his own accord.