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Every few months, we get a message from a student or alumnus who wants us to take down something they’ve written for the paper. Our policy around removal has always been that if the published article poses a safety risk or creates any other form of danger, we’ll take it down or take your name off the article as requested. Otherwise, we will work with the person to find alternative ways to mitigate their discomfort with having the article published.
Sometimes their requests are unreasonable — for example, requests to take the article down because the writing was bad, the author no longer agrees with an opinion article they submitted or that a true fact published in the paper will damage someone’s reputation. I understand these concerns. Now that all of The Silhouette’s articles go online, student’s writing, or the news about their on-campus activities is no longer just under university-wide scrutiny. Anyone around the world has access to it. This has been great for many of our writers and articles. We get readers from unexpected countries (as far as Australia!), and have expanded our readership significantly. It also means we get more complaints from people who don’t want the articles they wrote or are mentioned in to show up in their Google searches.
Wanting to delete articles you’re not proud of is fundamentally misguided. It speaks to a lack of understanding of individual growth. Whether it’s because your writing wasn’t as good as it could be, or you said something you don’t believe anymore, your acknowledgement of both shows how much you’re grown and improved as both a writer and a person. Publishing a controversial opinion in any online platform is an important decision. You have to be prepared for the backlash and the feedback, and be ready to defend your point of view. If you change your mind later and realize that you don’t even know the person who wrote those horrible things, then it’s up to you to own up to it.
Wanting to delete articles you’re not proud of is fundamentally misguided. It speaks to a lack of understanding of individual growth.
If you fear a damaged reputation because you reported true facts, all I can say is: that’s too bad. The Silhouette won’t censor itself to help you clean up your public image. These situations can vary in severity, but they all speak to the need to act ethically, kindly and wisely in all aspects of your (public) life. This is especially true for student politicians.
While student newspapers and organizations are less serious and more forgiving than their “real world” counterparts, they’re still no joke. It’s a reality that’s not meant to scare you, but to inspire you to make the best of your time here. Put a lot thought into what you write and how you act. Stand up for things you believe in, but be open to changing your mind. If you make mistakes, the best thing to do is to own up to them. Even if we delete your article from our servers, rest assured that the internet at-large is not such a forgiving place.