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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

IDS opinion page makes students unsafe

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Why is the Indiana Daily Student subjecting students to possible harassment and stalking?

We hear a lot about students needing to "feel safe" on campus these days, and most of that is utter nonsense. "Students" who need a "safe space" because someone had the audacity to disagree with them on a political or social issue need to grow up and join the real world. But there is a potentially real threat to student safety from the IDS editorial page, and that is the sloppy editing of letters to the editor.

The IDS has a bad habit of printing e-mail addresses of letter writers, which is bad enough. But I was taken aback by the February 24 edition, which printed the cell phone number of a student who had written a letter. It was also online, but was removed after I sent a note to the editor-in-chief and the opinion editor saying that for the writer's "privacy and safety, I urge you to take it off the website."

I understand why a newspaper would want a letter writer's address and phone number for verification purposes, to ensure the writer is who he says he is. Normally, that information would never be published in the print or online edition.This allows the writer to have his say without exposing him to unnecessary attention. If someone has a listed phone number, a disgruntled reader can always call him up and curse him out, but it is an extra step. It should be obvious why someone's contact information should not be published with his letter.

I do not believe the Indiana Daily Student meant any harm, or even intended to publish the number. But the opinion editor and the copy editors need to be more careful about this sort of thing in the future, to protect students' safety. This is a mistake that should never be made. Furthermore, the IDS needs to abolish the practice of publishing letter authors' e-mail addresses. A paid columnist or writer should expect to see his e-mail published, as that is a common practice. A letter writer, however, does not and should not expect that.

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