At UKrant: Vindictive
Every day, the editorial staff at the UKrant wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A look behind the scenes.
Last week, Ukrant published an opinion piece by an Italian student assistant who helped out at the RUG’s Lustrum office, titled ‘“All Inclusive” didn’t apply to the lustrum team’.
Her (personal) observations basically boiled down to the fact that behind the scenes of the lustrum office, things weren’t as inclusive as the ‘All Inclusive’ theme tried to convey. UKrant caught a lot of flak for publishing the piece. People said the opinion piece kicked the university while it was down and that it was vindictive. They said we never should have given the writer a voice.
The UKrant’s editors write daily news and background stories, but the UKrant also serves as a platform for the academic community. Everyone can contribute to the public discourse.
There are two ways to do this: you can respond quickly, briefly, and spontaneously (through Disqus), or you can send us an opinion piece (which is generally longer than a single comment. We do have some rules for opinion pieces:
UKrant doesn’t necessarily agree with the contents of an op-ed
They need to clearly state a person’s opinion (that might seem obvious, but we’ve seriously been sent an ‘opinion’ piece about a nice walk in the woods someone once took), be relevant and preferably topical, contain clear arguments and substantiation of those arguments, and not state any demonstrable nonsense (such as claims that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth). Most importantly, opinion pieces are never allowed to be anonymous.
When UKrant publishes an opinion piece, that doesn’t necessarily mean the editors agree with its contents – in fact, their opinions are entirely irrelevant. It does mean that the editors think the piece is a worthwhile contribution to the public discourse and that it meets the conditions set out above.
It might be interesting to note that at least half the opinion pieces people send us don’t meet these requirements and are therefore rejected.
We obviously judged this much-maligned opinion piece by our standards. After conferring with the author, we made some changes (which is entirely standard practice) and published the piece. Sure, the piece criticised the proceedings, often quite pointedly. But does that mean it’s vindictive? Is it kicking the RUG while it’s down?
We decided it wasn’t, and we stand by that decision. Obviously, UKrant contacted the RUG and offered it the opportunity to submit its own opinion piece. We were told this wasn’t necessary. But the RUG did cancel our previously planned final interview with departing rector magnificus Elmer Sterken.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief UKrant