Harvard's student government voted Sunday to support an illegal immigration advocacy group's petition to condemn the daily campus newspaper after it reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for comment in response to a protest in September.
More than 900 people and several student groups signed an online petition demanding The Harvard Crimson "apologize for the harm they inflicted on the undocumented community," "stop calling ICE," and "declare their commitment to protecting undocumented students on campus."
The Crimson has come under attack for covering Act on a Dream's "Abolish ICE" protest in September. The Undergraduate Council, the university's student government, argued that The Crimson's actions caused "fear and feelings of unsafety" among students on campus. The Council made a statement of solidarity that falls short of a full boycott of the newspaper. The Crimson was rebuked in a statement that passed 15-13-4.
"We condemn actions or policies that endanger undocumented and immigrant students on campus, and we encourage the Harvard Crimson to revisit their policies and make adequate changes," the student government's statement reads in part. "It is imperative for the Harvard Crimson to commit to journalistic practices that do not put students at risk."
Kristine Guillaume, president of The Crimson, defended the paper's request for comment in a statement.
“Fundamental journalistic values obligate The Crimson to allow all subjects of a story a chance to comment,” Guillaume wrote. “This policy demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that the individuals and institutions we write about have an opportunity to respond to criticisms in order to ensure a fair and unbiased story.”
In its "Note to Readers," The Crimson pointed out it did not provide the names or immigration statuses of individuals at the protest in its request for comment to ICE. The editors stressed that the students who were interviewed and speeches made at the public protest were on the record.
"A world where news outlets categorically refuse to contact certain kinds of sources — a world where news outlets let third-party groups dictate the terms of their coverage — is a less informed, less accurate, and ultimately less democratic world,” The Crimson said.
Fernando Urbina, a Harvard student who sponsored the statement condemning the newspaper, told The Crimson the council's statement is not a call to boycott the newspaper.
“This statement does not mention the boycott whatsoever,” he said. “It is simply a stepping stone that we recognize the concerns of Act on a Dream and undocumented students on campus, and we can begin and continue having conversations with these groups and finding solutions.”
Reporters for the Washington Post and the New York Times, as well as several other publications, have pointed out there are "new pressures" facing college journalists for simply "reporting" the news.
This controversy comes as Northwestern University's daily newspaper last week apologized for covering former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' speech on campus. The Medill School of Journalism is regarded as one of the top journalism schools in the nation.