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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Letter to the editor: Student petition for change in Bullet policy

To the Editor:

We the students of the University of Mary Washington want to respond to the recent actions of our school newspaper and suggest a way forward through the promotion of student respect, diversity and community. We are advocating for a change in Bullet policies and procedures with the belief that many of the writers are good natured and concerned about the well-being of our paper.

Recently, several UMW students were profiled on the front page of the Bullet for alleged crimes that occurred off campus. Although we understand that the reporting of such information is constitutional, we believe it negatively affects the UMW community.

We support the concept of innocent until proven guilty and that no student should be judged prematurely before the law. Being placed in the school newspaper for an alleged crime can cause professors, students and the community to view that individual differently based on a limited amount of information. It is the sole responsibility of the law to judge these individuals, not our campus newspaper.

Moreover, when prospective students and families visit UMW, we want them to pick up our paper and see the many accomplishments of our students, not the alleged and unfortunate actions of a few.

Furthermore, we encourage the Bullet to adopt clear reporting policies for criminal behavior that grants equal treatment to all students. Currently, there is no clearly published policy as to who is put in the newspaper and when. Targeting individual students based on their personal profile is unfair and undermines the credibility of our paper.

Lastly, the Bullet should encourage the Twitter parody account operating under their name, to follow the UMW Statement of Community Values and Principles on Diversity and Inclusion if they wish to continue using the University of Mary Washington’s name. In addition to engaging in cyber bullying, this account has produced incendiary, homophobic and unprofessional tweets that reflect poorly on our student body. If the Bullet disagrees with these actions, we call for them to issue a full public apology.

The Bullet newspaper has and must continue to be a paper for the students and by the students. It must remain objective and respectful of all, with the understanding that every student must be treated equally. By choosing to withhold the names of students whose crimes were not committed at UMW and were not proven guilty, the Bullet must provide a level of respect that should be afforded to all students. With the implementation of these suggested actions, we believe that our paper has the potential to return to its former stature once again.

At the time of publication, the online petition has 154 signatories.