Primary Source loses TCU recognition


The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary last month derecognized the Primary Source due to the conservative publication’s inactivity and low membership this year.

The journal has also been reported to the Dean of Student Affairs and the Office for Campus Life for submitting a membership list for re-recognition that contained the names of students uninvolved with the Source, according to Judiciary Chair Adam Sax.

“Not only did they have a membership list that was very low, but they actually, in our eyes, forged a document,” Sax, a graduating senior, said.

After receiving a recognition application from the Source listing only four members, the

Judiciary requested an amended version of the document including the members’ phone numbers as per standard practice, Sax said.

“When we called those four numbers, no one seemed to know why they were on that list and were totally unaffiliated with the Source,” he said.

The Source can continue to publish the journal, Sax said, but derecognition means that the publication is barred from using the Tufts name, accessing TCU funding, reserving space on campus or utilizing the Media Advocacy Board Lab to print issues.

The nearly 31-year-old Source will continue publication in the fall despite derecognition, according to Austin Berg, a former Primary Source business manager and associate editor who plans to take over the publication next year.

“I believe that the Source has been a crucial part of Tufts’ political dialogue for the past three decades and offers a deserved voice to those who don’t fit into traditional, left-wing, right- wing or left vs. right-wing ethical and political debates,” Berg, a junior, told the Daily in an email.

However, Source members declined to comment on how they would fund publication without their Senate budget, which stood at $11,802 for Fiscal Year 2013. 

Former Primary Source editor-in-chief Christopher Piraino, a rising senior, said the Source has seen a steady decline in membership over the past few years, in part because of the journal’s right-leaning views on a mostly liberal campus.

“It’s just been the trend, as far as picking up new members,” he said. “I mean, it’s a minority viewpoint … just not enough people picking it up over the years.”

The Judiciary uses 15 members as a benchmark in determining groups’ recognition status but makes exceptions on a case-by-case basis, Sax said.

“It’s a holistic process. It’s kind of like college admissions,” he said. “Membership is part of it, but if you’re a 10-person group and you do a lot on campus, host a lot of events, most likely we’re not going to derecognize you.”

When notified of the derecognition on April 11, The Source’s editorial board decided not to appeal to the Committee on Student Life (CSL), Piraino said. 

The Source can no longer overturn the decision because appeals to the CSL are due 10 days after receipt of the derecognition email, Sax added.

“We talked among a small group of us that run [The Source],” Piraino said. “We basically decided it wouldn’t be worth it to do it. We decided to go along with it.”

Sax said the Source can apply for new-group recognition in the fall but emphasized that they will face obstacles as a result of the fraud in their rerecognition application.

“This is a case not only of derecognition, but of fraudulent behavior that has been reported to the Dean of Student Affairs and the OCL and will be kept on record by the Judiciary,” he said. “So should they come back, they will have to answer for those actions.”

Berg said that concerns about the group’s membership stemmed from a miscommunication between Piraino and the Judiciary.

“The context surrounding that breakdown is currently being discussed with the CSL,” Berg said.

The derecognition follows an unrelated incident in December 2012, when The Source published a controversial Christmas caro” satirizing a sexual assault awareness event on campus called “Take Back the Night.”

In an email statement sent to the Daily on Dec. 13, Piraino apologized for the “editorial oversight” and announced that The Source would enter a one-semester self-imposed suspension.

The offensive carol had been reprinted verbatim from the template of a 1999 issue, Piraino said, noting that the staff reviewed their editorial practices and updated The Source’s issue templates during their suspension this semester.

“The main thing we did was we created actual templates for the Source to use instead of using old copies, which caused the problem,” he said. “Then we kind of took a break from it to clear our heads.”

“The frustration and embarrassment I felt after that incident will be the driving factors in ensuring such an oversight won’t happen again,” Berg added.

The Source’s allocated budget included funds for 11 issues, and Sax noted that The Source’s self-imposed suspension was not a Judiciary-approved procedure, so the lapse in publication came across as inactivity in the body’s eyes.

“[The Source] produced this year one tiny, skinny periodical at the beginning of the semester and then disappeared without ever contacting us with why they’re disappearing,” he said. “There were rumors that they were taking a self-imposed suspension. That doesn’t exist.”

Even following a semester-long absence, Berg expressed confidence that The Source’s alumni support and editorial team will restore the journal’s presence on campus.

“I’m very excited to get The Source back into the hands of Tufts students and am grateful for the opportunity to do so,” he said. “We will continue to impact campus dialogue, we will continue to offer a critical, unique perspective and we will continue to grow.”