Freedom of Speech at Holy Cross: The Spire as a Microcosm

Stacey Kaliabakos ‘23

Chief Opinions Editor

To think that my time here at Holy Cross is coming to an end in under a month is mind blowing. It may sound cliché, but it truly feels like just yesterday that I began my college journey here in 2019. I vividly remember my first few days at school, trying to make friends and figure out what I was going to do extracurricularly here at the college. Back then, I was extremely shy and was only beginning to find my voice. It was not until my sophomore year that I decided to finally rip the bandaid of intimidation off and join The Spire. Initially, I was a part of the Features section as an editor and enjoyed being able to hone my writing skills by contributing articles each week. My time in Features was especially beneficial because Holy Cross was entirely online my sophomore year, so The Spire offered me a different way of connecting with classmates and new friends that I would not have had otherwise. 

My junior year– about halfway through the fall semester– I decided to make the switch from Features to Opinions. I felt that my voice and passion for writing were getting stronger, and there was so much that I wanted to talk about– both on and off campus. I’ve written about so many topics that are important to me: handicap inaccessibility on campus, masking policies at Holy Cross, social media’s role in moral decay, religious diversity at Holy Cross, and much more. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to make my own ideas heard.

As the Section Chief of Opinions, my job has included writing an article every week, sending emails reminding editors and staff writers of submission deadlines, reading each article for my section, doing layout every Tuesday night, and distributing the paper on Fridays. I have done these tasks with joy each week, but that doesn’t mean it has always been easy. At the start of the fall semester, I was the only writer for Opinions. For the first couple of issues, I was truly struggling to put the section together. Oftentimes, I would have to spread out a full page ad on one of the pages of my section or give up an entire page to a different section altogether. However, I did not want this to continue. Personally, I think that the Opinions section has always had the potential to be the greatest section– not just in The Spire, but in any newspaper that exists. What drives society other than people talking or writing about their various opinions? My mindset was that my Opinions section should serve as a microcosm of our larger society. I sought a politically balanced, topically diverse section of a variety of perspectives and ideas. And slowly but surely, that is what I was able to put together. 

Over the course of this semester, the Opinions section has been more successful than I have ever personally seen it. Some weeks, I have required extra pages for articles and have even received submissions from as many as eight contributors who wanted to be featured in the section. Of course, I am indebted to my Opinion Editors, Ashwin Prabaharan ‘26 and Will Donahue ‘24, for their dedication to Opinions and being writers I can always rely on for polished and insightful pieces. Alexandra Berardelli ‘25, Ryan Wynn ‘23, and Sean Rego ‘26 have also been incredible staff writers who have brought a plethora of innovative articles to the section. I am so grateful to everyone who has become a part of the Opinions family for making the section so loaded with fantastic and sagacious content. And this is not meant as a bragging right on my behalf– it is genuine enthusiasm and pride for the way this section has evolved in the past year. It has become a place where students are unafraid to voice their diverse opinions, which is what newspapers and periodicals should all be like.

An unfortunate development across college campuses is this common hesitation to lean into true free expression. This has really been brought to light at Holy Cross with the recent conflict regarding The Fenwick Review. After the last issue was released, an uproar on campus was raised concerning one of the staff’s pieces entitled An SGA Exposé. This article raises concerns over the allocation of SGA budget money, arguing that it is questionable as to why some clubs have so much more funding than others. In particular, it argues that MSOs and IBOs are organizations that profit from the inauthentic intentions of the SGA to make up for injustices towards minority groups. However, the author specifically says at the end of the article that, “The solution is to not encourage a separation based on identity, fueling the rift with the money of the masses, but rather to bring students together, without the divides of identity. The obsession of identity fuels division.” Ultimately, conservative students who question the intentions of the SGA do not wish to erase the place that often disenfranchised students have on campus, but instead bridge the divide between groups so as to make the college a more accessible and welcoming place for all.

Unfortunately, this was not the message received by most groups on campus. A statement that in part read “We’d like to emphasize that we condemn the actions or hate speech of The Fenwick Review. The words, actions and beliefs don’t align with Holy Cross and it’s mission of men and women people for and with others…” was signed by eleven student organizations, including BSU, LASO, CASA, Pride, DESI, ASIA, MEPA, ProspHER, POW, HCF1rst, and The MPE’s. This widely-circulated social media statement clearly misrepresents the point of the article. Which exact action taken by The Fenwick Review can be constituted as hateful? Does the publication of an article that does not conform with mainstream political thought fall under the umbrella of hate speech? And, most importantly, why did none of these organizations or individuals who reposted this statement directly reach out to The Fenwick Review for clarification on this issue, electing to post a targeted and aggressive statement on social media instead of addressing the issue through dialogue with their fellow peers?

As a result of this backlash, countless social relationships have been broken– among acquaintances, co-workers, and even close friends. Administrative action has been taken (and resolved) against a member of The Fenwick Review in the Department of Community Standards. An increasing number of physical threats have been made against staff writers, such as targeted derisions towards staff writers in the classroom (by both students and professors), students finding the apartment of a staff writer and putting a specific MSO sticker on their door, and subjecting other staff writers to intensely uncomfortable situations in both private and public. Additionally, actual hate comments on the Fenwick Review Instagram can be found in abundance– which is heavily ironic, considering the fact that people claim that what is posted by The Fenwick Review is threatening while simultaneously commenting that the Review’s “brain-dead” staff writers should “rot in hell.”

How does this attitude productively add to the political atmosphere of this campus? This unwillingness to engage with one another is what is harmful, not the active sharing of different ideas. Personally, I believe that no one can truly call themselves a journalist if they are afraid of opinions contrary to their own. The only way to grow and learn is to listen to those you disagree with. Oftentimes, hearing out your opponents can make your own arguments stronger. We need to do better as a community in this area of civil discourse– one cannot haphazardly engage in labeling the other side before truly hearing out what they have to say. You might think of The Spire as just a silly school newspaper, but it is really more than that– it is a megaphone for your voice. What we are seeing transpire on this campus can be stopped if everyone were willing to simply speak honestly to one another and assume that their opponent has good and genuine intentions– not hateful ones. Embrace the power that expressing yourself freely can provide. If there is anything that I have learned here at The Spire (and at The Fenwick Review), it is that your voice matters, and it is your choice whether or not to think that others matter, too.

Featured image courtesy of Share America Freedom of Speech

Categories: Opinions

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