Editorial: 2nd February 2010

A letter to an editor came to the attention of The University Observer in the past week. Not one addressed to this newspaper, but to its counterpart across campus, The College Tribune. In it a student reader, presumably of both publications, discusses the piece ‘A Vintage Education’ published in the 19th January edition of this newspaper. Several issues have arisen as a result of the publication of this letter, and we will take the opportunity to redress them below.

To state that we “fabricate issues for the sake of print space” is grossly inaccurate. Firstly, the issues in the piece – which dealt with the unique experiences of UCD’s population of mature students – were raised by the mature students that the author spoke to, and quoted, in the article. Secondly, the basis of this “bold assumption” appears to be founded in an ‘immature’ student’s willingness to speak to their mature counterparts. While somewhat commendable, this does not necessarily mean that the mature students this undergraduate deigns to speak to are in no way isolated or burdened by difficult issues. Finally, and most importantly; to state that this publication fabricates any of the factual material printed within its pages is untrue, offensive, and legally indictable.

While there is now a precedent in the other campus newspaper to publish letters not pertaining to its own material, and indeed pertaining to the material on these pages, such attitudes do both newspapers – and their readership – a disservice. As a newspaper, we embrace the right to express opinion, but there are correct and incorrect places to do so. There are correct and incorrect manners to do so.

In this regard, the motivations of the other publication must be examined. Perhaps this situation has been viewed with too cynical a weathered eye on our behalf, but publishing an accusatory and defamatory letter about the material in these pages is not only ungracious but dangerous. The College Tribune, in publishing libellous material, are now responsible for the distribution of that libel. That is dangerous ground for a newspaper, or any publiction, to tread.

It is unclear what motivation might lie behind addressing a letter to an editor so wholly unconnected to the publication in question. Unfortunately the student writing the letter felt compelled to withhold their details, and so cannot be addressed personally, or have their issues redressed privately.

The writer of the letter in question chose this route to air their opinion, and this in itself raises a serious concern for the editorial team of this publication. If there is a perception among our readers that we do not publish the letters we receive, we must be quick to dispel it.

Every letter received by The University Observer is read and considered for submission to this very page. Indeed, UCD students are not such avid letter writers that we find ourselves innundated with missives regarding our publication. As such, it is fair and true to say that almost every letter received makes it way on to the bottom of this page. In this same vein, all of our material is published on our website and allows readers the opportunity to comment should they wish to.

All we ask in return is the right to reply.

Thank you.