MARTIN: ‘IT DID NOT OFFER THE COMPASSION WE NEED’
AMHERST, Ma. – Amherst College President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin declared the disbandment of The Amherst Student Monday, announcing that the college had closed the student newspaper in the wake of its controversial reporting on the resignation of American Studies and Sociology professor Carleen Basler.
“While we are saddened by the loss of this historic publication, we felt a responsibility to bring it to a close in light of its irresponsible and unacceptable conduct,” said Martin in a written statement.
Administrators at the liberal-arts college had expressed outrage over the newspaper’s extensive coverage of Basler’s departure, including the Student’s insinuation that her resignation was related to the discovery that many of her scholarly works borrowed heavily, verbatim, from other sources without attribution, and – even more inflammatorily – that her actions were not wholly accidental.
“In this trying moment, Professor Basler deserves our well-earned and unconditional support,” said Martin. “Regrettably, rather than respect Carleen’s privacy, The Student reported her private misfortune as though it were news. It did not offer the compassion we need or the conciliation I demand.”
Chair of American Studies Karen Sánchez-Eppler, one of the most vocal faculty proponents of The Student’s termination, expressed satisfaction with the president’s decision. “[Basler’s] tragedy served to remind us how challenging writing can be for a young professor only recently out of grad school,” she said. “It’s so disappointing that The Student would try to twist this into a critique of the victim herself.”
Added Sánchez-Eppler, “She’s an academic, not a writer.”
In a joint statement following the newspaper’s closure, the Student’s former staff apologized for its handling of the story, acknowledging that it had “gone too far” in disclosing not merely the professor’s retirement but also the possible reason behind it and even the reactions of faculty at the institution that had granted her doctoral degree.
The newspaper’s closure does bear a silver lining for the college: Administrators said the release of the publication’s office in the Keefe Campus Center would offer an ideal venue for Amherst’s Multicultural Resource Center. “This is absolutely the perfect location for the MRC,” said interim Dean of Students Charri Boykin-East. “Its inviting, open spaces and beautiful outdoor views provide a very welcoming environment for students from all walks of life. Of course, we’ll still destroy the game room.”
Calls for The Student’s termination came from all corners, including in comments posted beneath the online version of the story itself. “Who are we to judge the actions of our role model?” wrote one unidentified “Recent Alum.” “Let he who has not appropriated a cumulative forty-nine pages of un-cited literary analysis cast the first stone.”
A Gravis Marketing poll commissioned by the college found the Basler story to be the second-most offensive article in The Student’s history, after everything ever written by Andrew Kaake ’14.