Why Does Trinity Need the Tower?

I think The Tower has the potential for positively contributing to debates on campus and bringing voices that are not usually heard in everyday discussions.

Last year, The Tower saw a drastic increase in its readership. With this spike comes a natural stream of criticism that carries the same undertones. “Why not just write for the Trinitonian?” “Why create an echo chamber for Trinity conservatives?” I want to address those criticisms in this piece.

The underlying assumption in these critiques is that campus discourse should belong exclusively to campus-sanctioned publications. To deviate otherwise is to disrupt the flow of campus discourse. Before I move forward, I want to clarify that I am only speaking for myself, not for The Tower editorial board or for the other staff writers. Personally, I think the arguments against The Tower are unsubstantiated but fair criticisms.

I chose not to write for the Trinitonian, but not because of any incompetence or unfriendliness at the paper. My interactions with the Trinitonian staff, though few, have been nothing but positive, and I have nothing but respect for people who put themselves on a strict timetable for writing and publishing articles. I’m willing to give the Trinitonian staff the benefit of the doubt and assume they are good people that I can respect. 

Nonetheless, there are reasons I choose to write for The Tower on a regular basis over the Trinitonian. For one, generally speaking, I can write longer opinion columns for The Tower, which allows for a more in-depth discussion of whatever issue I am writing about. I tend to prefer longer columns as they tend to avoid the shock-inducing one-liners that usually saturate shorter columns. I also joined The Tower as an opinion writer because there were no other regular non-conservative writers at the time. There still aren’t. Finally, the editorial board has a very flexible timetable for its writers and is more lenient with late articles, giving us busy, unpaid writers the space and time we need to write good pieces–though, to be frank, I don’t think every article we’ve published has been superb.

But speaking as a non-conservative writer for The Tower, I will say that accusations of a lack of intellectual diversity are unwarranted (though it shouldn’t shock anyone that a conservative magazine is staffed predominantly by conservatives). The Tower editorial board has been nothing but friendly in bringing and retaining me on the opinion staff. Many of the other staff writers have spoken positively about my articles.

I will conclude by inviting those who are more liberal-minded to consider writing for The Tower. I am dead serious about this invitation. If The Tower is willing to have me, I imagine it would not be a problem having a few liberals become regular columnists. If that is too much, people are more than welcome to submit guest columns to the editorial board. If anyone has any doubts about what The Tower is willing to publish, check out my arguably progressive column that takes a personal angle in the debate about transgender people (which was published alongside a conservative counterpoint). And if that is not enough to attract more left-leaning writers, The Tower is open to publishing non-political articles. At any rate, I doubt that The Tower is going anywhere soon. If anything, I think The Tower has the potential for positively contributing to debates on campus and bringing voices that are not usually heard in everyday discussions. 

Trinity Student Invited to White House

On Thursday, March 21, Trinity student Maddie D’Iorio attended the signing of Executive Order 13865 and President Trump’s remarks in the White House East Room. D’Iorio was invited after being fired from her position as an opinion columnist for the Trinitonian, Trinity’s school newspaper. Around 60 other college students were also invited.

Last month, activist Hayden Williams was assaulted at UC-Berkeley, where he was assisting the Turning Point, USA (TPUSA) chapter. Williams is a field representative for the Leadership Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides training and assistance to nonpartisan conservative student groups, like TPUSA chapters. Shortly after, President Trump spoke about the incident at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, MD, including his plans for the executive order.

D’Iorio was fired from the Trinitonian on February 27. “[T]he situation had nothing to do with the content she was producing or the perspective she was offering, rather with her position as an executive editor of [the Tower],” wrote Trinitonian editor-in-chief Julia Weis in an email.

D’Iorio is the lifestyle editor and the deputy editor for the Tower and began as a Trinitonian columnist in August. “[Getting fired] was really quite surprising,” said D’Iorio. “I told them in January that I wasn’t planning on working after that semester, because I felt that opinion columnists should really only have a year, to allow another student to have their voice be heard the next year.”

In a January 21 email to D’Iorio, Weis described steps that the Trinitonian staff took to avoid a potential conflict of interest, including removing her from the back-end of the website to avoid the appearance of the two publications sharing stories.

“We talked about the fact that there might be a conflict of interest with the Tower, but I thought that it was all taken care of because they said we had reached a solution,” said D’Iorio, adding that she “didn’t understand why the situation had changed.”

After her termination, D’Iorio shared the news with Manfred Wendt, executive director of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), a statewide organization with chapters at several schools, including Trinity. Wendt is also a Trinity alumnus (class of 2018).

“I told Manfred because he’s a friend,” said D’Iorio. “I didn’t expect that he would actually do anything with it, so being invited to the White House was a total surprise.”

In preparation for the signing of the order, the White House began searching for students to invie. Through Wendt’s personal and professional network, D’Iorio’s name came to the attention of the White House Social Office. D’Iorio and two other Texas students, including Saurabh Sharma, chairman of YCT statewide and the YCT chapter at the University of Texas, were invited to attend the Thursday event.

Bernadette Tasy, a masters student in speech pathology at Fresno State University and leader of Fresno State’s Students for Life of America (SFLA) chapter said “I am grateful for President Trump’s support for the students across the country who have been silenced on our college campuses, including myself.”

Tasy stood behind Trump during his remarks and the signing of the order. The Fresno State SFLA chapter found itself in a legal battle after a professor erased their chalk messages in 2017. “Our free speech has been shut down by administrators, professors, and other students. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s legislators, judges, and voters, so it’s critical that our universities uphold the value of free speech,” said Tasy.

Dr. David Crockett, chair of Trinity’s political science department, wrote in an email that “there are always issues with campus speech codes and with bureaucratic barriers placed in front of student conservative groups trying to bring speakers to campus. I would say that the state of free speech at Trinity is fairly healthy.” D’Iorio echoed Crockett’s sentiments in saying that “generally Trinity is on the better end; our administration for the most part is pretty welcoming and accepting of different views.”

Crockett added that Trinity is not without challenges, noting pushback after a March 2018 Facebook video highlighting Trump’s 2016 digital director and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, Trinity class of 1999. “I haven’t witnessed attempts to squelch it [free speech]–although there have been examples of alumni who threatened to withhold funds from the university because it recognized Brad Parscale in some online format last year.”

“It might just be a product of us being in the south and being in Texas, but I think generally people are nicer. I talked to a few other students, and people are just downright rude to them all the time and they have to deal with it every day,” D’Iorio said of general campus attitude towards conservatives. “We sometimes get a small portion of that, but it’s really nothing in comparison to these other schools.”

Watch the signing of the tningon YouTube.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article have been thoroughly fact checked and examined for bias by Nathan Darsch and Isaiah Mitchell, the other editors for the Tower. D’Iorio did not edit the article.

Update: this article has been lightly edited for clarity.

Photo by Maddie D’Iorio.

What Are We Doing? The Mission of The Tower

By now, we’re about a month into this new phase in the publication’s life. We changed our name (for good this time), launched a new website, reorganized our editorial team, and added many more writers. In the past month, we’ve published more articles of higher quality than ever before, and we’re only picking up the pace thanks to our dedicated team of writers. We’ve been publishing The Darsch Report almost every week for a few months now, and this Friday we’re starting an 11 week series exploring the 10 ideals of conservatism according to Russell Kirk. That’s not to mention the four podcasts we’re working on (more on that coming soon, too).

One might ask: what do we have to offer that existing publications don’t? Why should anyone care that at a school as small as Trinity University there’s another publication serving the student body? It might be easy to say we want to provide a conservative voice and perspective on campus events, and while it’s certainly true that our opinions are at least right of center, I think we have something to offer to everyone at Trinity, in the San Antonio area and even in Texas more generally. To justify asking already busy students to write, to justify paying for our upcoming print issues and anything else we do, we need to defend the claim that what we’re offering is better and different from any other publication.

We have the most potential for growth and a wider readership by offering a more conservative perspective on events in San Antonio. I’m not talking about biased news reporting (because we take great care to report on news stories as objectively as we can), but coverage of events that left-leaning papers in town like the Express-News, the Current, or the Rivard Report wouldn’t often bother reporting on. Things like the Alamo March for Life or individualized profiles on City Council candidates.

We also tend to have our ear closer to the ground for news of interest to conservatives, like the recent closure of the Whole Woman’s Health facility in town. We wrote about it at the end of December, and the Express-News didn’t have their article published until mid-January. For whatever reason, no right-leaning paper in San Antonio has gained traction yet, and I think we are excellently positioned to fill that void (speaking of which, we aren’t restricted only to Trinity students— anyone, from any school or decades out of college, is welcome to write a one-off op-ed or join us on a regular basis).

We’re also writing about statewide, national, and even global events, but from our perspective. If we don’t think we have something unique to offer about an event, such as an interview with a student who has some personal connection to it, or some little-known connection to Trinity or San Antonio, we won’t write about it. The trap that many student publications run into is thinking that they’re the same caliber as the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. We aren’t, and we won’t pretend to be something we’re not.

Probably the biggest question here is “what about the Trinitonian?” Why does Trinity need another publication focusing on campus news? From where we’re standing, we see two main reasons: perspective and independence.

The Trinitonian is undeniably left-leaning. This is not an indictment of their journalistic integrity or the character of the staff, just a function of it being the paper at a liberal arts university. The Trinitonian should be commended for not going after conservative students or clubs in the name of ‘news reporting’ as papers at some other institutions sometimes do. The news section fairly portrays the events of the past week. However, the Trinitonian tends not to address events that are less mainstream, like the Young Conservatives of Texas’s Berlin Wall last semester. Or, when the Trinity Diversity Connection, a University Sponsored Organization (USO), endorsed candidates for Student Government Association (SGA).

The Trinitonian claims to be independent—right there in their tagline, “The Independent Student Publication of Trinity University.” And while they tend not to run rampant with bias or prop up obviously unqualified faculty or administrators (which likely has more to do with the excellence of our faculty), the Trinitonian can never truly be an independent paper. While not technically a USO, their budget is guaranteed in the SGA constitution at their five year average, as is true for every USO. They have a faculty advisor, workspace, and funding guaranteed by Trinity. These are not necessarily bad things, but they make it impossible for the Trinitonian to ever be truly independent.

The Tower is completely committed to independence. We will never take direction from Trinity or any other outside organization. Our goal is to serve the students of Trinity and the people of San Antonio with the best news stories and the right ideas. The Tower has no paid personnel—we are all taking the time out of our schedules to work on this project because we believe it will better the communities we care so much about. If you read something on the Tower, you can trust that no one told us what to publish or not publish, and that we are ready to stand behind what we’ve written.

We chose to rename our publication for the distinctive Murchison Tower on Trinity’s campus, for the Tower of the Americas and for the idea of intellectual pursuit that the image of a tower evokes. There’s a reason our first major project is a long exploration of the ideas of Russell Kirk. With the right ideas, we believe the right perspective will come across in everything we publish, whether it’s a review of VeggieTales in the House or a news article on the annual MLK march. If you understand that ideas have consequences and that factual and independent reporting matters, then the Tower, the right voice for the Alamo City, is the publication for you.