Wisconsin Student Newspaper Fires Columnist After Writing Column Opposing The Defunding Of Police

We have been discussing a crackdown on some campuses against conservative columnists and newspapers, including the firing of a conservative student columnist at Syracuse, the public condemnation of a student columnist at Georgetown, and a campaign against one of the oldest conservative student newspapers in the country at Dartmouth. Now, The Badger Herald, a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin Madison, has dismissed columnist Tripp Grebe after he wrote a column opposing the defunding of police departments. What was equally disturbing was how the rationale for this raw act of viewpoint intolerance tracked the rationale used by the New York Times in a controversy over the column by Sen. Tom Cotton on the George Floyd protests.

The College Fix republished the column by Grebe, which is a well-written article that begins with a strong statement against police brutality and the need for society to address the underlying issues:

The recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, and the riots and protests that have followed, have forged an essential discussion on police brutality that has been long in the making. In the past, many of us have responded to publicized incidents of police brutality by giving officers the benefit of the doubt because we believe that the other side of the story will justify their actions. We must now reckon that the “other side of the story” does not always absolve police officers’ of wrongdoing. For the first time, many of us now stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, the same existence that Black people have known to be true their entire lives.

The reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement was undoubtedly justifiable, expected, and necessary in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. As the movement gains steam, it forces us to have difficult conversations and continue to stare into the eyes of police brutality’s existence.

However, Grebe disagrees (as do most Americans) with the “defund the police” movement. Indeed, recently Minneapolis City Council members have started to qualify their controversial pledge to defund the police due to a rise in crime and citizen unease.The column suggests other ways to reform the police while supporting officers. He views the move to defund as illogical:  “If we’re expecting police officers to be better, why would we be taking money away from them? When schools are failing, we don’t ‘Defund Schools,’ we give them more money and implement new plans to ensure their success.”

Clearly people of good faith can disagree on these points. However, this is precisely the type of dialogue that is missing in today’s environment, including in our discussion of racism.

After he filed his column, Herald’s opinion editor Samiha Bhushan contacted Grebe via email in late August and said that, while the piece was “well written,” it was “too much of a hot take.”  The email, posted on the conservative site YAF, said that the editors were worried it could “alienate” incoming freshmen and, “[a]dditionally, we just posted an editorial board supporting BLM and another article publicly endorsing two candidates who want to defund the police. As a result, your article would cause a lot of backlash that we cannot afford right now.”

There was a time when editors would be ashamed to even suggest pulling a piece in fear of the “backlash” or response of critics.  Student newspapers have long been bastions of free speech. In the 1960s, they challenged conservative views on faculties and in society. Now however they openly acknowledge the need to adhere to a more liberal viewpoint.

The Badger Herald was actually created to offer an alternative conservative perspective on the campus with financial support from William F. Buckley

Later the editors changed their rationale to refusing to publish and said that the column was not “accurately and relevantly sourced.”Grebe’s article contained roughly 20 different sources from news outlets such as CBS News, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the National Economic Bureau. I cannot see the basis for such an objection to this opinion piece, particularly given other pieces previously published by the newspaper. For example, columnist Samiha Bhushan wrote an article from the opposing viewpoint which was published and rightly so. There did not appear to be a problem with sourcing her conclusions about the total lack of accountability by police. Both pieces are valuable viewpoints.

Badger Herald Editor in Chief Harrison Freuk insisted that the real reason is “inaccurate/irrelevant information” without explaining what was inaccurate or irrelevant.  The newspaper also fired Grebe as a columnist. He cited Grebe’s conduct after his column was pulled and made direct reference to the fact that the newspaper had been contacted by the university after a complaint to a conservative student group.

Notably, the newspaper recently published a piece by student Ken Wang entitled “How Wisconsin can begin to reform its law enforcement.” It is also well-written and insightful. It argues that it may be time to defund police:

Another important option to explore is defunding the police. Defunding the police would not mean we wouldn’t have police at all. It means reallocating funds from the police department to healthcare, education, social welfare and other community resources.

When asked what defunding the police would look like, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, said “it looks like a suburb … affluent white communities already live in a world where they choose to fund youth, health, housing … more than they fund the police.”

That is a valid assertion. It is no more “sourced” than Grebe’s column. It also explores other means of changing police practices and conduct. Again, it offers an interesting perspective like Grebe’s column . . . but Grebe’s perspective was never published.

The belated sourcing rationale appears ripped from the pages of the New York Times. When Sen. Tom Cotton published an opinion column calling for the use of national guard troops to quell rioting in Washington, he cited a long history in the deployment of such troops by Democratic and Republican presidents. The column was factually correct.  However, journalists denounced the column and the protest ultimately led to the removal of the editor as well as a cringing apology of the Times. Notably, the newspaper claimed the same unexplained inaccuracies or errors in the column. It never bothered to respond to some of us who noted that, while we disagreed with Cotton on the policy, the column contained a fair accounting of the history of the use of the underlying law.

New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones was one of the journalists who pushed the New York Times to denounce its own publication and promise to curtail columns in the future. In so doing, she railed against those who engage in what she called “even-handedness, both sideism” journalism.  Hannah-Jones however later tweeted out an utterly absurd anti-police conspiracy that lacked any factual support.  She suggested that the destruction by protesters was actually the work of the police. That type of ridiculous claim (later deleted) by Hannah-Jones did not lead to a call for her resignation or any statement of condemnation from the newspaper or her colleagues.

The student editors of the Badger Herald appear to have learned well from the New York Times. They censored a conservative columnist by claiming undefined inaccuracies and sourcing issues. They are well suited for the new media as professors denounce the very concept of objectivity and call for reporters to pursue open advocacy in their coverage.

The Grebe and Bhushan columns offered precisely the type of opposing views that schools should welcome on a campus. They represent the diversity of thought that is essential to the intellectual mission of higher education.  Yet, only one of those columns was published and the other columnist was fired.  This does not bode well for the profession. I have been a columnist and an academic for decades and I have never seen the level of raw bias and intolerance on our campuses and in our newsrooms. We are living in the age of orthodoxy and the threat to free speech and the free press seems to grow exponentially by the day.


36 thoughts on “Wisconsin Student Newspaper Fires Columnist After Writing Column Opposing The Defunding Of Police”

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  2. The land of free speech has devolved into requiring a loyalty oath to a Marxist BLM organization, that seeks to defund police, encourages criminal activity, bails out looters during a pandemic, and is racist against whites.

    How far we have fallen. And academia is leading the charge to the bottom.

  3. “The recent of murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police”? Is that a throwawy line meant to ingratiate the author with those who would reject out of hand his view against defunding the police? How does Grebe know it was a murder? Or any kind of intentional or even negligent killing? There’s been no trial and no guilty plea. Until there has been, all we know–and all he should have written–is that Floyd died in police custody. The courageous thing to open with would have to say that, and not to have conceded what the BLM and antifa activists, along with many news organs, say happened.

  4. Tch, tch. Such cowardice on the part of the editors.

    I suppose that it is time to start another newspaper.

  5. “It’s Mr. Market, stupid!”

    – James Carville (paraphrased)

    Parents continue to send their children to these schools.

    These schools will change their behavior when parents stop sending their children to these schools.

    Mr. Market demands liberal wackjob schools so Americans are supplied liberal wackjob schools.

  6. The student press, main stream media and internet social media portals are controlled by the indoctrinated Ministry of Truth children of today. They will not abide by any thought that is not approved under the ideology of “Demsoc” and the leaders of the American Liberal Left Socialist Party. They now have agents roaming the halls of academia and society in general looking for thought criminals and will punish anyone who does not follow their doctrine. ——- We can see the Pearly Gate of our Republic vanishing into the new doctrine of “Liberal Collectivism”. Their dogma will not produce Utopia but will pave the way for a Totalitarian Leadership. “My way or the highway” is their current mantra. —— We must resist their efforts otherwise America as a Great Nation will be thrust into the Memory Hole of history. —– Does Art imitate Life or is it just the opposite? We can deduce from Orwell’s novel 1984 that there are similarities that exist today. His novel “Animal Farm” also illustrates that there are many contenders for the leading role of Napoleon the Pig within the current Democratic Party.——-” Follow me my motives are pure”

  7. Jonathan: In this post and others you have complained that there is a cabal of liberal thought police on university campuses to “crackdown” on conservative student opinion. Like a good magician you have perfected the art of misdirection. The real problem of the suppression of speech is not on university campuses but is coming from the White House. There are no “liberal” views inside the Oval Office and liberals need not apply at any government agency controlled by Trump. Now while Trump has a right to have around him advisors that share his views his attempts to suppress speech go way beyond the White House. He has sued the NY Times and the Washington Post because he didn’t like their coverage of him. Even Fox News, that has been Trump’s platform, megaphone and cheerleader the past 4 years, has been on the receiving of Trump’s wrath. When a Fox reporter dared to criticize him on air Trump sent his toady, AG Barr, to complain to Rupert Murdock who dutifully took action against the reporter. Trump considers Fox “his” network. As the election approaches Trump is trying to force Fox to skew night coverage to favor him. Many inside Fox view this as a nightmare scenario. It is reported that Trump has told Murdock that on election night, if Trump has a slight lead in a battleground state, like Pennsylvania, Fox should report Trump the winner without waiting to have mail-in-votes counted. Voting is the ultimate form of “free speech”. But Trump wants to prevent millions of voters from exercising this precious right. He has had his Postmaster General sabotage the postal service by slowing down the mail to prevent mail-in votes from being counted. Sounds a lot like Belarus, Turkey or Russia doesn’t it?

    No, the real threat to speech is not on university campuses but from Donald Trump. That’s the existential threat you choose to ignore!

    1. I suggest you read Glen Greenwald and Matt Taibbi on the ‘liberal’ press. They are not big fans, and for a reason. If not fake news, the mainstream media, including Fox and CNN, have blurred the lines between the pages that used to be devote to news and those reserved for op,ed. to the point where there is no discernable difference. The result has been news that is only fit for purpose for those who already agree with the ‘journalists’ who are in reality advocates and a general decline in the trust that the general public who do not have strong ideological views have for the media.
      It is not just the UW Herald that has lost its way . . . .

    2. “Trump has told Murdock that on election night, if Trump has a slight lead in a battleground state, like Pennsylvania, Fox should report Trump the winner without waiting to have mail-in-votes counted.”

      A) Citation?

      B) You’re telegraphing the fact that the Dems are going to play games with mail-in ballots.

      C) You are assuming that the majority of absentee ballots will favor Biden.

      Man, are you in for a very large and unpleasant surprise.

      The 3 words that will cost the Dems the election: “Defund the Police”.

      That’s what happens when you allow angry Marxist man hating lesbians to define your political Party.

    3. I would have fired Grebe for his assertion that Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. Facts are different than opinions and this statement is deeply suspect. It seems Floyd died of a Fentanyl overdose, despite the medical examiner’s understandably terrified reluctance to confirm this.

      To believe Floyd was killed by police you must believe that the policeman was preventing Floyd from breathing by “kneeling on his neck” as a million hand-wringing accounts have it. But cameras worn by the police show Mr. Floyd still in his car, having an otherwise agreeable discussion with them, and declaring “I can’t breathe”.

      So assuming the cops didn’t shoot or stab him, consider at least the possibility that the cause of his breathing difficulty preceded the cops’ subsequent actions. Whatever else you may call those actions, “murder” is not one of them.

      Pandering to the lunatic left by stipulating to their insane framing of events is a recipe for a losing debate. You’re fired, Grebe.

  8. I have serious doubts that we are dealing with people acting in good faith in understanding an issue or carrying out their journalistic responsibility. Instead we have the ends justify the means. And the end is brute power.

  9. Hear ye Hear ye, get your dose of right-minded news – right here. Original, student reported.
    Oops, sorry, we fired the student for writing an opposing ‘opinion’ in our right-minded news publication.

  10. I would suggest that any professor or reporter, for just one week (seven nights) ride with a police officer as they were responding to code calls of domestic violence, and burgherly, and drugs, shootings, etc. You will ascertain first hand what those officers confront daily and nightly. Your education would be Greatly Furthered and out of your safety zone of ivory tower living. As Nicholson said; “you will want them on that wall”. If there is not law and order the barbicans will take over.

    “Another important option to explore is defunding the police. Defunding the police would not mean we wouldn’t have police at all. It means reallocating funds from the police department to healthcare, education, social welfare and other community resources.

  11. What about Trump’s taxes? Did the blithering idiot, suggest and argue for Bling Bimbo Ivanka to be VP, and then give up when she told him, “Daddy, I don’t think it would be a good idea.”? Turley the shill mines student newspapers after reading religiously Foxnews.

  12. It’s another indication, in case you needed one, that organizations in our time tend to be run by dishonest, hollow people. Thus, the editor manufactures an excuse he cannot support or defend (which implies the author is incompetent), then stonewalls. That’s how institutions run these days. A dear friend of my father was most amused, ca. 1980, at the then novel idea of teaching ethics in business schools. Waste of time, he said. “You know it when you’re ten, or you don’t know it”. Well, this Freuk guy’s certainly a sh!t in a very familiar way, just 20 years under his belt notwithstanding. He’ll have a lucrative career in corporate PR. Look at the sort of young people we’re breeding.

    The other excuse is that freshman and UW cannot possibly process an ordinary opinion piece offering very ordinary opinions. I keep hearing there was a phase change around about 2014, and that faculty have the last six years been dealing with a lot of head case kids in their classrooms. No clue what brought that on.

  13. These are young Democrats in training. Why is anyone surprised that they are trying to shut up the opposition any way they can? That is what Democrats do. Truth is not the friend of Democrats.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. I was on campus when the Herald was founded in 1969. I preferred the Cardinal, but the Herald provided a useful alternative voice to the Cardinal, which had become tediously predictable.
    I see that is no longer the case.

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