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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Libel does not belong in The Carletonian

<tion: noun, Middle English, written declaration, from Anglo-French, from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book, 14th century.

Definition: a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression. (1): a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt.


Last week’s Viewpoint, “An Unapologetic Endorsement of Jinai Bharucha for CSA Vice-President”, had no place in The Carletonian. The allegations contained in the piece were largely the product of misinformation and hearsay.

Moreover, the author failed to put the events he referenced into the context of how campaigns have been run on this campus throughout our time at Carleton. As a result, the piece was not only inaccurate, but also damaging to Robert Stephens and to the campus climate as a whole. Ultimately, the piece should not have appeared in The Carletonian.

The article made four central claims, each of which we will address separately. First, and most benignly, the author claimed that at last week’s CSA debate, “Robert Stephens offered little substance, generic inspirational rhetoric and left the impression that he didn’t quite know what the CSA does.” Fair enough. If the author was not moved by Robert’s appeals to the Carleton community, that’s fine and within the bounds of reasonable criticism.

However, the article did not stop there. The author continued, “Robert has run a less dignified campaign [than his opponent]: mass facebook-friending coupled with blatant pandering.” At this point, the author failed to mention that Robert’s opponent created and invited people to a Facebook group as a campaign tactic, and, unlike Robert, purchased Facebook advertisements to solicit votes. Both candidates used Facebook as a forum for courting voters and such, attacking Robert for doing so was unfair. Facebook is a legitimate means of communicating with peers.

As evidence of the “blatant pandering” mentioned above, the author wrote, “One telling example is his emails to the perceived leaders of the Christian community, rife with bible verses, assuring the recipients that he is a sympathetic ear to those who may face religious discrimination on campus—not only is it patronizing, but what is he implying about Jinai?”

First of all, Robert, a devout Christian, is a member of the “Christian community” mentioned by the author. To suggest that it was “patronizing” for Robert to invoke his faith as a way to lobby his fellow Christians makes little sense, given that the author of the piece did not read the email in question before writing his viewpoint and is not a member of said Christian community; he based his assessment of the email entirely on what he had heard second-hand from people who had received it. As a result, his indictment of Robert’s conduct was based entirely on hearsay and the author’s judgment of the internal relations of a community that is not his own. But even if the author had actually read the email and had placed it in its proper context, so what? If the son, grandson, and great grandson of a preacher, like Robert, cannot reference the bible to relate to other members of his faith, who can? By attacking Robert for sharing his personal faith with his co-religionists, the author effectively attacked Robert’s personal identity. Furthermore, Robert’s expression of his faith has absolutely nothing to do with his opponent. By raising the question, “what is he implying about Jinai”, we are left to ask what the author meant to imply about Robert.

Finally, the author attacked “Robert’s supposed plan for this weekend: bring computers to the CASA party and convince drunk students to vote for him. If this is true, it’s both dishonest and unethical, and as a Carl, I want no part of it. What does it say about a candidate if he needs to resort to Cooping? Nothing good.” This statement is problematic for a number of reasons. First, there was no CASA party last weekend. We will presume that the author meant to refer to the Freedom House party, which Robert did attend. Why the author assumes that the only people who attend these parties are drunk, easily manipulated, and waiting to be “Cooped” is beyond us.

Furthermore, lobbying students at weekend parties has been a commonplace campaign tactic for many years. If the author takes issue with this practice, he also must disapprove of the sitting CSA President’s campaign for office last year, as well as countless other campaigns that have been conducted on this campus. The author’s decision to single out Robert for utilizing a campaign tactic that has become an accepted staple of CSA elections displays a troubling refusal to place events in their proper context.

The article in question unjustly defamed the character of Robert Stephens. As such, if anything, it belonged in The Clap, The National Inquirer, or some other purveyor of yellow journalism. It did not belong in The Carletonian, which purports to be the paper of record for this campus. The Carletonian’s decision to publish this libel two days before polls closed for CSA elections undoubtedly influenced the VP race and exhibited lamentable standards of journalistic integrity on the part of the paper.

It should be noted that this viewpoint is not meant to be a personal attack on any of the individuals connected to the article in question. We would especially like to thank the author of the article for his willingness to meet with us in person to discuss our concerns about the allegations he made in his piece. This viewpoint simply intends to defend the character of Robert Stephens, whom we feel was wrongfully attacked last week.

-Colin Bottles and Brandon Walker are fourth-year students. Bottles is a former and Walker is a current CSA Senator. Both are former RA’s and current peer leaders.

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