I am very grateful to Pomona's Student Union (PSU) for bringing me to campus last evening. I would love Claremont to have something analogous to a student-run, independent speakers bureau. While I think PSU unjustly folded when the administration and certain segments of the student body pressured them after their ill-fated immigration debate, I have tremendous respect for the group and my criticisms of it are always intended to be taken as trying to make it better, not worse.
But tonight, I thought their moderator left something to be desired for reasons I'll get into in a moment.
I suspect part of the reason I was brought to speak at PSU on the State of Student Media was to actually advocate and articulate. And yes, be a bit controversial. (In fact, the Facebook event publicizing the event referred to me as "divisive," which is a bit of a biased word to begin with.) So, true to form, I made a crack about how political diversity really made me the only Elephant in the Room and I encouraged Pomona students to get real about their education because I think political correctness is imperilling their -- and by proxy -- my education. Why don't Pomona students criticize professors who fight to disinvite speakers? Why doesn't President Oxtoby speak out against students shouting down invited speakers?
When I tried to criticize Trevor Hunnicutt of The Student Life for some of the shoddy standards I feel are institutionalized at his paper, including plagiarizing The Claremont Independent, the supposed moderator told me not to make it ad hominem. It wasn't. I was just pointing out what had, you know, actually happened. I confess that I didn't do it quite the elegant way that Ilan Wurman CMC '10 did in the question and answer period, but the point still remains. Indeed, Trevor's "retraction" that they ran in The Student Life was two sentences after The Claremont Independent's staff spent nine months researching it. The individual who wrote that story, Travis Kaya, was promoted and insofar as I can tell, never punished or censured for essentially ripping off The Claremont Independent.
Of course arguing that someone is "mean" or resorting to "ad hominem" attacks is a tactic used by some people whenever there is measured criticism that they cannot or will not respond to. Such was the case last evening when both Trevor and the moderator suggested I was being "rude."
And the moderator, despite my ironic suggestion that he was actually a good moderator, seemed more inclined to attack me than to actually moderate the discussion. Several times he interrupted me -- and only me -- in the middle of a sentence and while I was perhaps not as articulate as Abhi Nemani, who in fairness is something of a great speaker (if a tad unoriginal in his thinking sometimes), I think that the moderator knows that there are many ways to give nonverbal cues to indicate you've gone on too long. That he didn't do that, suggests to me a kind of bias. But I leave that for others to decide.
At one point, he called me out for video recording the panelists. He tried to ask me, snidely, of course, where the video would be online. I informed him that it was audio and that I can do whatever I like with the audio or video I take because...
1) California law protects me. 2) I've started to make it a habit of recording every public event at which I am a participant.
Call me paranoid, but I seem to believe reading about two boys who were punished and the only thing that cleared their name was having a video that documented what actually happened.
Oh, and yes, I will continued to criticize The Student Life for typos. I'm a one-man operation that has produced over 1,000 blog posts since I began in September. I don't have "fact checkers" -- paid or unpaid -- and I do the level best I can. A subsidized product, with staff members, ought to be able to do a better job than some guy sitting on his computer.