Gossip, Rumors and Gilden: How We Can Do Better

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Danielle Martin Co-Editor-in-Chief Letter From the Editors I hate to bring up Mr. Gilden again, especially a year later, but wait… We never have. Our community has talked about it, gossiped about it, emailed about it, but not in a way that’s productive, that aids our understanding of the situation and its implications, that gives us closure and a means of moving forward in the positive direction. A year ago was the first time I shied away from an article. To fill in those of you who are new to Latin, Mr. Gilden was a history teacher who resigned after sending inappropriate emails to former students. The announcement of his departure was made at morning gathering. It was a short announcement to the whole upper school body that ended with an early dismissal from gathering, leaving no time for questions or further discussion in a controlled environment. We, the editors of the Forum, remember the announcement as vague and unsatisfactory; the lack of information provided left the details of his resignation up to interpretation. Immediately the gossip and rumors circulated, some embedded in truth, but the majority complete fiction. It didn’t come as a surprise when disbelief and intense emotion followed the announcement, begging questions and an outlet for conversation. The administration’s position was not an enviable one— after all, there is no good way to tell 400 plus students that one of their teacher’s actions has violated the school code. And informing the community while respecting each party’s privacy is a difficult feat in itself, one that deserves a whole separate article (stay tuned). No matter what, rumors will circulate; however, it is our opinion that discussing issues like these in an explicit outlet, rather than behind closed doors, is more effective. Our community would have greatly benefited from The Forum sitting down with the administration to get the full story—or at least as much as they were willing to divulge—to provide students and faculty alike with an alternative to the rumors, but our editorial board decided it best to let it be. What began as a news article to hush the rumors turned into an interview with Mr. Coberly on “Rethinking Student-Teacher Relationships.” Timely? Yes. Warranted? Yes. Still, the article disappointed to address what I, and surely you readers, wanted it to. The purpose of this article is not to rehash the details of Mr. Gilden’s resignation, but to examine how The Forum staff has handled situations like these in the past in the hopes of bettering how our publication, and our community, handles them in the future. There have been many other articles that The Forum editors and staff have wanted to write but haven’t because they would’ve been too critical, made a public spectacle out of someone in our community, or surfaced issues that are too emotional to be discussed. In the midst of a presidential election where every tidbit of information is scrutinized in the public eye, all you have to do is scan the headlines to find a scathing editorial. It’s hard to imagine why The Forum isn’t following suit—or at least to an extent. The Forum is a school newspaper, meaning it’s published by and for the school. Whatever we choose to publish must respect each member of our community. We must draw the line, be a publication upholding Latin’s core values, writers maintaining our morals. Within the past year, The Forum has made significant strides to become a newspaper representative of Latin’s students. We’ve introduced Room For Debates to incorporate a variety of perspectives, Athlete of the Issue to celebrate our talents, and Buzzfeed-esque quizzes for when you need just a quick 5 minute break from homework. But also within the past year, Latin has faced unparalleled controversy—sexual emails, unsuccessful diversity initiatives, multiple resignations, unrated sex scenes, the list goes on. But instead of expressing our views in the controlled outlet that we have in our school newspaper, our community has lashed out in hurtful anonymous emails, arguments over what political slogans we can and cannot wear, and pure slander. There’s no single person or group to point the finger at for this heated climate–  not the student body, not the administration, not the liberals or the conservatives. What we can do moving forward, however, is put names to our statements and authenticity to our words all in the name of responsibility and change, using The Forum as our avenue. We, The Forum, aspire to be the trusted voice of the school. But let’s clarify who “we” are and what “The Forum” is. Our school newspaper was aptly named The Forum, defined as “a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.” But we, the entire Latin community, have not being doing its name justice. (Yes, the editors are finally admitting it!) To say that the editors and staff writers are the only ones who make up The Forum would be hypocrisy; The Forum belongs to our community, regardless of race and gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic background, age and religion. It is a school newspaper that aims to create a safe, honest dialogue where conversation is spearheaded through writing, reflected on after reading, discussed during passing period, and then exchanged in the comment section or in future articles—a newspaper that gets every side of the story and never again shies away from a topic in need of publication, clarification, conversation, and fact. The new school year of 2016-17 welcomes change, and one of those changes is the way that The Forum approaches emotionally charged discussions. Never will we “dig up dirt,” as the media refers to it. Our role as the newspaper is to inform, be our school’s voice, and provide a means for dialogue. As The Forum editors continue to take risks of covering oftentimes uncomfortable topics, we ask you, the readers of The Forum, to participate in these conversations—comment in the comments section, write us Letters To the Editors for publication, and, hey, maybe even join The Forum and write your own article. So this year we’re introducing a new and improved Forum, where (don’t worry!) the quizzes and the controversy will co-exist, where we hold ourselves and our writers to a higher journalistic standard, where no article will ever again lack the “so what?”. We will not write controversy for the sake of controversy, but for the sake of conversation, change, and mutual understanding. We will realize what it means to be Latin’s Forum. “Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice.” —Joseph Pulitzer]]>