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Davis

Davis, California

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Column: Fucking up

I’ve had my fair share of parent-teacher-esque conferences over the years, during which multiple adult authority figures have brought up my use of cuss words.

As far as character assassination goes, this column will probably stay on the permanent record a whole lot longer than their puritanical disapproval. But I’ll save you all your skepticism and tell you directly that I frequently cuss. Sometimes even in front of women and children.

Yet, such reprimands are hardly a surprise on a campus like ours.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has ranked UC Davis as a red-light school three times since I started as a freshman in 2009. This means that the campus has at least one speech code that directly violates the freedom of speech, or that the speech codes are not available to the public. In 2012 and 2013, it was ranked as a yellow light.

Despite attending a public institution, it is not unusual for employees of The California Aggie to receive heavy pressure from the administration regarding our coverage. In my direct experience, this has ranged from phone calls insisting that university officials be quoted in articles, to Campus Media Board-hosted meetings in which student employees were assailed over offensive coverage or advertisements.

I will not deny that we’ve made bad decisions. After the misguided publication of “Jungle Fever,” the editorial board institutionalized diversity training. I personally have learned a great deal about race and gender inequality. The bar has been raised.

Unnecessarily, however, this came after a very long meeting in which ASUCD senators and other offended students asked the Media Board to fire someone over the racist column, and to require that an administrator approve all California Aggie content before publication.

It may not be a campus policy, but it sure as hell doesn’t encourage free speech.

Unserendipitously, the “Jungle Fever” meeting ended minutes before Occupy protesters were pepper sprayed. These two seemingly unrelated issues came together to teach one big lesson: a campus that doesn’t support the freedom to share bad ideas also doesn’t support the freedom to share good ones.

Alas, I’ve had the last four years to use The Aggie as my personal agenda-pusher, so for now I’ll shift on to a more positive element of my college experience. I have met a lot of wonderful people here who have fought the good fight, and for them I owe the next five inches of column space.

Thanks to Angela Ruggiero for responding to email complaints when I misquoted an entomology professor as a freshman reporter. Thanks to Mark Ling for standing up to sources who weren’t actually misquoted.

Hannah Strumwasser, congratulations on a public-crisis-free year. Claire Tan, you have a lot to live up to. Namely, the quality of selfies Hannah and I left in the Photo Booth folder on your new computer. No regrets there.

Brian Moen, thanks for often saying what I can’t and writing what I asked you not to. I gave you feminism, you gave me anarchy and together we gave Hannah an ulcer.

Thanks to my smart and wonderful roommate, 2012-13 editor in chief Janelle Bitker. You have always cared about this newspaper so much more than I have. Competition, inspiration — call it what you will — I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.

And finally, thanks to one of our local heros, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. You taught me that there is no mistake too big to not-resign over. And for that, I am really fucking grateful.

BECKY PETERSON was an Aggie features writer, city editor, managing editor and opinion editor. She is sad to graduate, but excited to be considered an outside agitator. She can be reached at rjpeterson@ucdavis.edu.

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