Taking A Historical Look At Colgate News

During this past semester, two new student newspapers have emerged on campus. Much like most of America, these new papers are split among political lines. One new student newspaper is The Colgate Review, which is a conservative paper started by Hunter Strupp and several of the College Republicans. The second new paper is The Colgate Voice, which is a liberal paper founded by Taylor Swick and the College Democrats. Although these new newspapers are meant to encourage a healthy discourse among students, it seems to have become clear that political sentiment on campus has become far more polarized. One could even compare this current polarization on campus to campus during the Vietnam era in the early 70s. The history of Colgate newspapers reveals, however, that political schisms are not a new phenomenon on campus.Most students do not realize that The Maroon-News was not always known as The Maroon-News. The Maroon-News was actually formed in 1992 when two rival Colgate papers known as The Colgate Maroon and The Colgate News were consolidated into one paper. Although the cover of The Maroon-News boasts itself to be the oldest college weekly, from 1869 to 1991 the Colgate newspaper was known simply as The Colgate Maroon. The Colgate Maroon was the only student paper on campus until 1968, when diverging political sentiments led a group of students to create a new paper they titled: The Colgate News.Much like nowadays, the Colgate campus of the late 1960s was torn among three issues: the status of fraternity life, diversity and the Vietnam War. The Colgate Maroon was historically known to be the liberal student paper, whereas The Colgate News offered more conservative opinions. The Colgate News was created in 1968 as both a reaction to student demonstrations on campus and a response to the lack of objectivity presented in The Colgate Maroon. Tom Amberg, the founder of The Colgate News and member of the class of 1971, recalls that there were considerable political divisions on campus. In 1968, Colgate students staged a large protest in the Student Union in which they loosely assembled themselves in order to demand a new Cultural Center and liberal administrative changes. By the time Amberg graduated in ’71, the campus was still polarized. During Amberg’s graduation ceremony, the Valedictorian led a “counter-graduation,” during which nearly half the senior class stood in protest against the war and Nixon’s Secretary of state, William Rogers, who was scheduled to speak at the graduation. Although Colgate seems politically active now, it seems hard to imagine half the senior class standing in protest at our graduation.However, Amberg believes that the founding of a new conservative paper can only serve to help the political atmosphere at Colgate. The campus lacked a conservative voice in 1968 and, as Amberg claims, The Colgate Maroon had become radicalized and out of touch with the student body. In addition to being radically opposed to the Vietnam War, The Colgate Maroon accused the fraternity brothers of being war-mongers, racists and sexists. Amberg recalls that the foundation of The Colgate News was a success, and he further believes that it is important to encourage respectful discourse between many different viewpoints. Amberg, who now owns a communications firm in Chicago, recollected about the first year of The Colgate News’s life, saying that they attempted to offer “both a different view of politics and a different view of fraternities than did The Colgate Maroon.” “At the same time,” says Amberg, “we were also critical of various national or school policies. I guess you could say we were the Fox News of Colgate in 1968 – fair and balanced, but decidedly conservative.”Strupp, co-founder of our conservative Colgate Review, thinks similarly regarding his goals for the new paper. Strupp says that The Colgate Review’s goal is to “provide another outlet for students to voice their opinion.” Strupp maintains that “while The Forum and The Maroon-News do not have a noticeable bias, The Colgate Review will focus primarily on the conservative standpoint. The more opportunities there are to get published, the better.” Taylor Swick was also optimistic about the new Colgate Voice. In its mission statement, The Colgate Voice hopes to stay partisan, respectful and educational. It seems that both these papers have very ambitious goals because it is difficult to express political bias without offending someone, particularly on a college campus.The current situation at Colgate seems to reflect many of the same sentiments from the Vietnam era. The similarity between the articles in the old Colgate papers and the articles nowadays is shocking. Many articles regarding diversity initiatives, fraternity takeovers and foreign wars are literally interchangeable across time. Brian Rooney ’74, a former editor of The Colgate Maroon, agreed that there seems to be many similarities between the Vietnam era, during which he was a student, and now.”I see many similarities in American politics today,” Rooney states. “There’s a spilt between people who think the war in Iraq is wrong and those who believe entirely what President Bush and the administration tell them. It was generally fashionable among college students to be against the war, but there were students [at Colgate] who fervently believed we were fighting the advance of communism in Vietnam and we were doing the right thing over there.” Parallels abound in our current war against Iraq. To be fair, the Vietnam era was obviously much more politically hostile, but it seems that if any form of the draft appeared now, our generation would rival the passion of any of the previous generations. Let’s hope that these new Colgate papers are used to open a healthy dialogue between our polarized campus, and are not used merely for mud-slinging