Editorial: A letter to the editor

Editorial: A letter to the editor

Chimes makes dozens of decisions every week: What stories will make it to print? What makes a good article? What grounds do we have for not printing something? Who has the right to submit a piece to Chimes?

Every week, we do our best. Many decisions are relatively clear calls, and most Fridays our paper is published with little complaint. Sometimes, however, we are faced with a decision that we have not had to make before. This is one of those weeks.

This week we received a letter to the editor containing a confession. It was from a young woman at Calvin who had an abortion. She was hurt by posters that have recently been put up around campus by Students for Life, Calvin’s pro-life club.

My purpose in this editorial is not to explain the posters or the letter to the editor. I simply have two things I would like to clarify: the reason we printed the letter and why we allowed it to be printed anonymously.

Over the course of this past week, I talked to my colleagues, my parents, the official faculty advisors for Chimes, a Calvin alumnus who works for the Associated Press, President Le Roy and a few trusted professors about what to do with this letter.

I knew this was not something to be taken lightly, so I needed advice from a wide variety of people. We can all agree that the topic of abortion is a heated one.

This is especially true in religious communities such as Calvin. Thus, any piece of writing that highlights the issue of abortion should be handled with a discerning, compassionate and Christ-centered heart.

As I read the letter, I realized this was the exact point the author was trying to make. A group at Calvin had written a clear, one-sentence statement about the topic of abortion and had tacked it to public boards all around campus.

They had started a conversation that the author of the letter felt did not represent discerning, compassionate and Christ-centered hearts.

This is why we chose to print the letter: to continue the discussion these posters had started in a constructive, sensitive manner.

Once we made the decision to run the letter, we had to discuss the author’s wish to remain anonymous. Chimes has a strict policy against anonymity. This is the first anonymous piece we have printed all year.

In previous editorials I have made my position on anonymity pretty clear. In writing anonymously, I believe someone has the power to represent a whole group of people.

For example, if something negative is posted on Yik Yak about the dining hall, the staff members who work hard to feed us every day could look at every person who walks in and feel as though they were the one who is unhappy with the job the staff is doing.

This week’s letter to the editor does, in fact, represent a whole group of people. It represents our friends, sisters and cohorts who have been faced with a heartbreaking situation.

It represents a marginalized group of women at Calvin who are so afraid of judgement they feel they cannot reveal their experience to anyone they know.

Journalists are supposed to protect marginalized voices. In this case, Chimes hopes to provide a minority voice with the platform to speak to the majority.

I assume many of you will have opinions on this topic. I ask you to view this week’s paper not as a political statement but as a fulfillment of the part of our mission that mandates we foster healthy dialogue surrounding issues that affect the members of our community.

We do not know how many people have had abortions on our campus, but it is something we need to talk about. As you consider the letter to the editor and the posters around campus, I encourage you to read with a discerning, compassionate and Christ-centered heart.