The Primary Source, a student journal designed to promote conservative thought, recently re-earned recognition from the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary and is looking to resume activity this academic year.
Last December, following backlash against the publication of a Christmas carol which parodied the Panhellenic Council’s annual Take Back the Night event, the Primary Source self-imposed suspension from publishing. The piece – a reprint accidentally copied and pasted from a 1991 issue – was widely criticized as mocking the issue of sexual assault; in response, the journal chose to discontinue its activity for the remainder of the school year and was officially de-recognized by the TCU Judiciary in April.
When Austin Berg, current editor-in-chief of the Primary Source, returned from a year of studying abroad, he decided it was worthwhile to revamp the publication and earn back its recognition, so as to promote student debate and thought exchange, he said.
“The Source has been around for 30 years and is an important source of dialogue for students whose views are marginalized,” Berg, a senior, said. “It gives the spotlight to those whose voices aren’t otherwise heard, and that’s an honorable goal.”
Mikko Silliman, managing editor at the Primary Source, said that the absence of such a platform for minority opinions on campus has already created a negative impact. He argued that many students who voted on Oct. 9 for the school to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies may not have considered or been informed of the possible consequences of such a divestment.
“In a majority-liberal framework, you can’t advocate against [divestment] and be taken seriously,” Silliman, a senior, said. “The goal of the Primary Source is to make dialogue on campus about the substance, rather than about the political association … That’s not the reputation we’ve had in the past, and we want that to change.”
Berg said that his efforts to bring the Source back to campus have been positively received. The publication hosted a well-attended general interest meeting, with many students expressing interest in contributing articles. Berg also met with both the Office of Campus Life and the TCU Judiciary, both of which supported once again granting recognition to the Source.
Jon Jacques, chair of the TCU Judiciary, said he was encouraged by the Source’s general status as a pro-debate institution.
“The Judiciary as a whole felt it was a highly necessary thing to have on campus,” Jacques, a senior, said. “No other mouthpiece exists on campus for students with alternate viewpoints. Anyone from any sort of beliefs [should be able to] express those beliefs, political or otherwise … and the majority of TCUJ kind of agreed with that.”
Berg emphasized that the Source does not condone insensitive content and will not publish purposefully insulting material like its Take Back the Night piece or its 2006 Christmas carol titled “O’ Come All Ye Black Folk.”
“There should be no excuse for publishing things that specifically seek to harm people,” Berg said. “I and everyone on the editorial board denounce those pieces and that Christmas carol. Hurtful voices should absolutely be discouraged. … But I would implore [the school] to not denounce an entire point of view because of past editorial management of this publication.”
Silliman reiterated Berg’s view, explaining that the Source hopes to break from its past.
“We’re starting from scratch,” Silliman said. “Everyone on the staff is fresh, so none of that baggage really pertains anymore.”
Berg said the Source will publish fewer satirical pieces, given that they tend to provoke a disproportionate amount of controversy, and instead focus on more serious articles designed to generate sociopolitical debate.
Berg noted that, at the moment, the Source’s primary objective is to secure funding from the TCU Senate. Coming out of its de-recognition, the journal currently has the status of a new on-campus organization, meaning that its annual funding is limited to $1,000. Berg estimated that it would require $11,000-$12,000 for the journal to be published on a regular basis, meaning once or twice a month throughout the school year, as it has before. He said he will negotiate with the Senate for additional funding and will also work to improve the Source’s website.
“What’s most likely is that, this year, we’ll be published only online,” Silliman said. “For us, that’s not such a terrible thing. We feel most of the population at Tufts reads most of their news online and that, through social media, the articles might be able to reach a broader audience than they might in print.”
Jacques believes that with enough fundraising, the Source will be eventually be able to resume its former rate of print production.
“It really depends on how quickly they can get funding,” Jacques said. “What I anticipate, if they do get funding, [is that] they will get on their feet and get things rolling. It’d be really great to see that.”