In recent weeks we have carried a number of letters and SMSes reacting to a Rhodes student who objected to the insertion of a Christian pamphlet in his student pack. The reactions have been quite varied – from people telling him to simply throw away the pamphlet without causing such a fuss, to those who have supported his right not to be given religious material in a secular university.
And of course there are those who have lampooned the entire debate, with references to the Spaghetti Monsterists.
This newspaper has not formally taken a stand on whether we think it is acceptable to ply new students with religious material or not. Opinions in our newsroom are diverse, and we would probably not come close to consensus if we had an internal debate.
Nevertheless, if we consider the mandate of this newspaper to serve the community of Makana, we have probably done quite a good job on this topic. Grocott’s Mail has provided readers with a forum to exchange ideas about the student’s objections and about the range of subsequent reactions to his objection.
It is good for a newspaper to promote robust debate, and it is also good for a community to be able to debate important issues in a public environment. The controversy surrounding the student’s objections has provoked more, and longer letters than any other single issue since February 2008.
We try to publish most of the letters we receive, but this has not been possible in recent editions, so we have been obliged to put some additional correspondence on our website. Last Friday’s edition had an entire page devoted to the issue and we will probably have a similar page in this coming Friday’s edition – so look out for it.