Controversy is not new to Wheaton. In the Spring of 1990, seven Wheaton College students faced disciplinary action due to their involvement with an alternative, open-forum publication, the Ice Cream Socialist. One student withdrew under threat of expulsion, two were suspended, and six were placed on probation–sparking a media firestorm and campus protests. While the discipline of the Ice Cream Socialist staff was unique, it stood in a long line of independent campus publications. According to the Wheaton College Archives, there have been 17 independent student publications on campus. Among these publications was the Brave Son, which started with the help of Wes Craven and was ultimately censored in 1963 and again 1970. There were also publications like The Independent in the mid 1990’s, which was widely supported and included multiple articles written by faculty. Some publications were humorous, others were for creative expression, and a few provided critical analysis.Yet all valued the need for free expression and independence that could not be met through official channels. Today, we see the same needs on campus that demand a truly independent publication. Specifically, The Tide is a response to the need for independent thought, critical engagement, and relevancy that campus publications lack.
Anything published on Wheaton College campus must first gain approval from a faculty or staff advisor and are ultimately under the supervision of Dr. Paul Chelsen, the Vice President of Student Engagement. This administrative oversight is designed to make sure Wheaton’s ethical standards are being met and student publications are being supported. The latter is true, at least budgetarily, as publications like The Record and Kodon receive a majority of their funding from the College. It would be nearly impossible for either publication to exist without this funding for printing and student-staff’s wages. However, this system is problematic in many ways. Campus publications can be censored if something is deemed inappropriate for the campus community, (which happened recently when The Record attempted to publish a critical Fifty Shades of Gray movie review.) While external censorship happens, so does self-censorship when students see themselves as representatives of the institution. Under this framework, anything negative that Wheaton faces becomes something to explain or minimize. Last week, the front page article with the title, “With Little Notice, Wheaton Drops Health Insurance for a Greater Good” exemplified how The Record can downplay critical views in favor of towing the institutional line. The strength of these formal and informal institutional ties makes independent or critical thought hardly an option for campus publications. For this reason, Wheaton needs a truly independent publication that is willing publish challenging pieces in pursuit of deeper understanding. This deeper understanding can only come through increased critical engagement.
Wheaton students love talking about Wheaton’s quirks. While our dating scene and excessive abbreviations are noteworthy, often more serious issues go undiscussed and overlooked. While issues of sexual assault, inter-faith dialogue, and gender identity can be difficult discussions, our unwillingness to engage them inhibits authentic unity. When speaking on Christian unity in chapel, Pastor Bryan Loritts used Paul’s vision in Ephesian 2 that emphasizes the work of Christ on the cross that breaks down the wall of hostility that divides us. This unity we are called to in a Christian community is not one that removes difference, but rather hostility. Confronting our differences without hostility can only happen through critical engagement. Though this current lack of engagement has many causes, the result is a false, forced unity that does not spring from real understanding. The Tide hopes to combat apathy towards on-campus issues and discussions, and provide a space for these difficult conversations to occur.
The Tide does not come from a place of cynicism toward Wheaton, instead it is a response to a deep love for the school and the positive change that is possible on campus. We value respectful, thoughtful dialogue that can only happen through independent thought and critical engagement. Our aim is to create engagement through addressing relevant issues with dynamic online forum. If this is something that you believe is needed at Wheaton sign-up to get updates or submit an article to be published.