The student editors of a college newspaper in Nebraska refused to publish a letter to the editor from a conservative student, mocking his request to have the letter published, according to leaked screenshots of their communications.
Wayne State College Student Senate President Blake Aspen wrote a letter to the editor in September criticizing the editorial decisions of the Wayne Stater — a letter that went ignored. On Wednesday, he sent an email to the student editors of the paper inquiring about his letter, which was written in response to statements from the paper's editor-in-chief boasting of leading an all-female editorial board with no conservative opinions.
"Earlier this year, I sent you a letter that was critical, but fair of [The Wayne Stater's] editorial practices. I'm curious as to when that letter will be published," Aspen wrote.
"As you are aware, at Wayne State College, we embrace diversity of all sorts. It's mildly concerning when the Editor-In-Chief publishes statements claiming how proud she is to have an all-female editorial board with no right-of-center opinions shared whatsoever," he said.
"Given my willingness to sit down for multiple interviews with your paper, I am looking forward to hearing back from you with a timeline for publishing the letter to the editor."
After receiving Aspen's email, the editorial team of the Wayne Stater mocked his request, leaked screenshots obtained by Young America's Foundation's Campus Bias Tipline show. The screenshots were given to Aspen, who posted them on Twitter on Wednesday.
"Aww guys he wants his letter published in our paper!" Laura Spieler, the arts and entertainment editor, wrote.
"Still not gonna do it lmao," Editor-in-Chief Kaitlynn Breeden replied. "I'm gonna respond to his email and try to not be a bitch and explain why I'm not publishing it."
Aspen's unpublished letter to the editor was a response to an op-ed piece that Breeden wrote last spring criticizing Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.
"Hi, it's me again <3 Just want to remind everyone that this is the opinion section, this is not news, will not be news, and I will be making fun of Pete Ricketts again," Breeden wrote. "This is just my opinion, nothing about this needs to be taken to heart. If you're a Ricketts fan, maybe skip this one and just read the news section this week."
In his letter, Aspen criticized Breeden for asking students that support Ricketts to "skip this one," complaining that the tone of her op-ed suggests she has no desire to persuade those that might disagree with her.
"When [The Wayne Stater] editors, and more specifically, the editor-in-chief, openly ask readers who do not align with the writer's perspective to 'sit this editorial out,' it causes grave concern. This shows that you're not even attempting to compel or persuade individuals who might disagree with you," Aspen wrote.
In response, Breeden wrote in a new op-ed that her opinion columns are "satire" and that she considers op-eds "to be different than editorials, which try to persuade."
"The only goal I have when writing my opinion columns is to make the reader laugh. That is honestly it. They are meant to be taken as a joke," Breeden wrote.
"[I]f the letter he sent in wasn't a personal attack on myself and other editors, I would've published it weeks ago," she added.
Breeden also said she was "disappointed" that a member of the editorial team took screenshots of their private chat messages and made them public.
"To be honest, I don't know our staff's political party identifications, and I don't care. But someone may have conservative views, because they sent Aspen a screenshot of our private group messages. This is disappointing to me because this could lead to staff members not expressing what they really think during meetings anymore, due to not wanting someone to leak information about them," she wrote.
Aspen told YAF that conservative thought at college campuses faces a "hostile environment."
"The reckless ideologues at The Wayne Stater discriminate against conservatives in private, but it's up to conservative students across the country to demand transparency in the way these publicly funded newspapers operate. It's time to end the suppression of speech on college campuses," he said.
Responding to a request for comment from YAF, Wayne State College Director of College Relations Jay Collier said: "The student journalists on the editorial board of The Wayne Stater have the right to determine the content of the publication consistent with Board Policy 3350."
She added: "We would encourage the editorial staff of The Wayne Stater to review its editorial policies to ensure accountability and transparency in its decision-making consistent with prevailing journalistic ethical and professional standards."