Young Democrats' promo causes controversy

Sept. 17, 2004, midnight | By Caitlin O'Brien | 16 years, 4 months ago

Info Flow airs politically-driven ad

Additional reporting by Adedeji Ogunfolu

The Young Democrats Club aired a promotional video on Info Flow that raised controversy among students and teachers on Monday, Sept. 13.

The promo contained political content that could be considered a violation of school regulations on distributing political material. On page four of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook, it states, "Make [political] material available to people who are interested, rather than giving it to everyone."

Silver Chips sponsor John Mathwin said that since every student is required to watch Info Flow in the morning, rules which govern school publications like Silver Chips may not apply. "If the equivalent of that video were to appear in a school newspaper clearly labeled as an opinion or an advertisement for a student organization, then there would be no problem," he said.

BNC understands the criticisms that people have concerning the promo, but the organization also feels it is important to encourage students' constitutional rights. "We regret if some individuals were offended by the Young Democrats Club's package that aired on Info Flow. Blair Network Communications is an organization that solemnly believes in the student's right to free speech," said Television Executive Producer senior Chris Nguyen-Gia in a formal statement. Nguyen-Gia also advocates the purpose of Info Flow as an outlet for advertising school clubs. "Any student group is offered the opportunity to promote their organization in any manner they see fit within BNC's on-air guidelines," he said.

The presidents of the Young Democrats Club were told to tone down the ad's message prior to the airing of the ad on Monday. "The supervisors of Info Flow and I saw the video tape before it aired, and we both recognized changes needed to be made," said Lansing Freeman, who is the Young Democrats' sponsor. "The original was more aggressive in terms of the colors used and the choices of words."

After Freeman approved the ad, the Young Democrats took it to BNC to be aired. "It met BNC technical standards. Therefore, BNC chose to air the promo on Info Flow," said Nguyen-Gia.

Even so, certain individuals in Blair feel that the pack should not have been aired because "it was inappropriate for school," said Calculus teacher Peter Engelman. "It was nothing more than a Bush-bashing political ad." Engelman believes that the ad should have encouraged students to join the club to be "politically active and share views on democratic ideals," which he said consist of much more than hating Bush.

Although Freeman believes that "the ad reflected ideas discussed in meetings, ideas and opinions that students believe are representative of the Blair community, I wish the ad had not been so negative. I counsel the students in the Young Democrats and students in my classes to not simply stand against something but rather to stand for something," he said.

Sophomore Adam Yalowitz, one of the presidents of the Young Democrats, agrees with Freeman and said he was surprised by the controversy. "The ad was aimed toward people who have similar political views," he said. The Young Democrats created the ad to urge students to join their organization and believed that it was successful. "I thought it was a good ad. It created a lot of discussion, and a ton of people joined the Young Democrats at the activity fair," said Yalowitz.

Freeman agrees that the ad was effective in getting students involved in the organization. "[The ad] stimulated discussion and attracted attention to what the Young Democrats see as a major issue in the upcoming election," he said.

According to BNC sponsor Shay Taylor, BNC will allow any club to advertise its organization on Info Flow. Senior Connie Sinclair, the Internet Executive Director of BNC, even posted a comment on Silver Chips Online inviting the Young Conservatives Club to air a pack. "We serve as a forum for all Blair students, regardless of their viewpoints, and it would be completely unfair for us to air one [ad] and not the other. As of right now...we have not received any response from the Young Conservatives about the Young Democrats' pack," she said. "If they would like to prepare a pack for us to air supporting George W. Bush, they are more than welcome to do so."

However, the Young Conservatives do not plan to produce a promotional video in response. "We're not going to because I and many other staff members believe that this is not appropriate for Info Flow," said Dennis Heidler, who is the sponsor of the organization. "I believe that public debate is a good forum, but this is not."

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