UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Sign For Our Times

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, UMass Boston established several outlets for students’ fears, anxieties and hopes: a prayer gathering, a teach-in, and, until recently, a public bulletin board outside McCormack cafeteria. Some wrote down statements of unity: “I hurt w/ you am keeping you always in my heart,” read one. “I pray God comforts you and leads you to greatness in your soul,” another person wrote. There were prayers – rather prominently, the peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi – as well as personal reflections.

But soon the board became a scale, balancing free speech rights and hate speech limitations.

Some comments were overtly hostile toward perceived outsiders: “Why don’t you stay in your own country and blame your own self for your problems,” one message read in part. “You are part of us. Bull!” Others were apparently directed toward perceived Americans: “You are all victims, (innocent) of your own government’s ignorance over many decades!” These and other similar comments were quickly scratched out.

A bulletin board is hardly a capable forum for public debate; like the Internet, it seems more apt for flaming than for dialogue. After several rounds of scribbling, counter-scribbling, and scribbling-out, the message board had all the beauty of a graffiti-ridden toilet stall. No wonder it was taken down the week of October 26.

But neither prayers nor curses appear by themselves. Nor can either be scratched out without someone behind the pen. Perhaps the comments were disparaged by a passerby; perhaps they were disowned by their author.

The bulletin board readers (and writers) may have assumed such attitudes will just go away – or that by crossing them out they’ve solved the problem.

It can hardly be said that the tragedy of September 11 has been resolved, nor can anyone claim to have unified the many voices in our midst. With the exception of this newspaper, however, no public forum remains for the many voices of the student body.