Online Commenting: A Response from the Editors-in-Chief

Jenn Carey and Brittani DiMare

Over the past several weeks, the Maroon-News has been enmeshed in a series of events that have become quite the hotbed of issues here on campus. As this year’s Editors-in-Chief, we have been in the middle of most of this, but haven’t yet had the chance to express to the Colgate community exactly what occurred, why certain decisions were made and the results of the past week’s events. We hope that this response will help to clear up some of the confusion that has been surrounding these events and that the policies we are now putting in place will prevent future equally upsetting occurrences.

On the afternoon of Friday, September 23, we became aware that several offensive comments were posted on the Maroon-News website in response to Trinel Torian’s commentary article, “If Only Everyone Were White.” Upon looking at the website, the decision was made to temporarily disable commenting on the article while the editors identified and removed these posts. This decision was made in accordance with the Maroon-News‘s online commenting policy at the time, which stated that “Readers are encouraged to comment on articles in a respectful manner. Comments that are inflammatory, i.e. involve personal attacks or racist, homophobic, ethnic, and/or profane slurs, will be deleted immediately. Furthermore, all comments that include spam or advertisements will be deleted.” This comment policy was available on the Maroon-News website at the time of the offensive posts, under the “Information” tab. Since only one of us was on campus and that editor didn’t become aware of this issue until late Friday afternoon, we temporarily disabled all comment­ing on the article until the editor who was still on campus could sort through and delete the offensive comments. We in no way intended to censor those who made appropriate and civil comments on the website; our decision was based solely on our responsibility to remove the offensive comments in line with our existing commenting policy. We feel that allowing such hateful comments to remain on the website would have been unacceptable, as they were clearly intended to target specific individuals and groups in a malicious way. Further, our intention was to re-enable commenting as soon as the offensive posts could be identified and removed. However, as members of the Colgate community began to pas­sionately respond to the offensive posts and the removal of the commenting feature from the article, we came to the decision that a new online commenting policy was necessary, one which would more fully map out what comments are considered offensive or inappropriate, stress the Maroon-News‘s unwillingness to tolerate such comments on the website and clearly express to the Colgate community the Maroon-News‘s right to remove such posts.

As a result, the Maroon-News editorial staff held an emergency meeting, at which point the need to develop and publicize a more comprehensive online comment policy was discussed. That was when we published our online statement indicating that commenting would be disabled site-wide pending the development of the online commenting policy. Once we were both back on campus, we worked for several days to develop a more comprehensive policy that would clearly establish the types of offensive or inappropriate com­ments that will not be allowed to remain on the website. Considering the campus’s lack of understanding as to why the Maroon-News removed (and will remove) such comments, we felt it was imperative to not only expand our commenting policy, but also to make this policy apparent to the public. Thus, we decided to print the comment policy in this week’s issue, and also make this policy available on the website. This updated, extensive commenting policy is much more thorough in defining the types of offensive or inappropriate comments the Maroon-News will not allow to remain online. We firmly believe that the comment feature on the Maroon-News.com should be a feature that promotes intellectual discussion and respectful debate, rather than a feature that acts as a platform for users to post hurtful and offensive speech.

Commenting on the Maroon-News website will be reinstated shortly. As part of our new online commenting policy, we are encouraging members of the Colgate community to help monitor the comments being posted on the website and report any instances where online posts appear to be in violation of the policy below. We hope that the Colgate community can help us further our goal of eliminating offensive and inappropriate comments from the website.

We understand the misconceptions and confusions that took hold over the past week, but we hope that this response will help to clear up many of those misunderstandings and help us to move forward. In the future, we hope that commenting on the Maroon-News website will continue to be a place where Colgate community members can have thoughtful, civil discussions about the articles printed each week and that it will never again reach this hateful point. We have pride in our publication and in the Colgate community and believe things can get better from here.

Effective immediately, the new online commenting policy is as follows:

Readers are encouraged to comment on articles in a respectful manner. The Colgate Maroon-News believes that online commenting should promote polite debate and intelligent discussion, and that our website should not become a platform for individuals to post ignorant, offensive or otherwise inappropriate remarks.

Therefore:

* Comments containing defaming, denigrating, offensive or incriminating language regarding or directed at a specific person and/or groups, as well as comments containing ad hominem attacks are subject to removal by the Maroon-News. Examples of comments subject to removal include (but are not limited to) comments disparaging ethnicity, race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, belief, creed, ancestry, martial status, military or veteran status, age, disability or social class.

* Comments containing profanity or language that is incoherent or vulgar are subject to deletion by the Maroon-News.

* Comments which fail to pertain to the article on which they are posted are subject to removal by the Maroon-News.

* The Maroon-News also reserves the right to remove comments that support violence or comments supporting behavior in violation of the law.

* Comments determined to be a form of slander, libel and/or other illegal tactics are subject to deletion by the Maroon-News.

* In the case of unsolicited advertising or spam within comments, the Maroon-News also reserves the right to remove said comments.

* Comments that contain hyperlinks to external sites or comments that contain language and/or content that is unchanged/nearly unchanged from a prior comment are subject to removal by the Maroon-News.

* Current Maroon-News editors are prohibited from commenting on online content.

Any comments outside of these parameters that the Maroon-News finds offensive are also subject to removal at the discretion of the Editors-in-Chief.

Visitors to the Maroon-News website are encouraged to report comments that they believe are subject to removal under the aforementioned stipulations. Users should send an e-mail to [email protected] to report comments in question, and the e-mail should contain the name of the article on which the comment appears, the comment in question and the reason for removal.

The opinions expressed in comments on the Maroon-News website are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maroon-News or Colgate University.

The Maroon-News reserves the right to amend or add to this policy at any time without providing advanced notification.

Contact Jenn Carey at [email protected] and Brittani DiMare at [email protected]