The Battalion is both the Texas A&M University newspaper and one of the oldest weekly college publications in the country. Recently, they’ve been a thorn in the side of some extreme conservative elements at the school, and it looks like those elements might be striking back to silence the journalists.
It all started with a blockbuster article on The Rudder, a group of conservative former students who apparently meet in secret and wish to steer the school in an ideological direction they find more appropriate. The paper obtained hundreds of pages of internal documents, many of which were subsequently denied by the organization. The Rudder was disturbed by 2020 protests to remove the statue of the school’s founder Sul Ross, who served as a Confederate general nicknamed “The N—- Killer.” The statue has been part of a pre-exam tradition for decades where students would leave pennies on it for good luck, but in recent years Ross’ role in slavery and terrorism of Black Americans has overshadowed his status as a beloved figure of university culture.
“The anti-Sul Ross statue protests brought the realization that poisonous theories were also being injected at the grassroots,” a passage from the Rudder’s newsletter obtained by the Battalion reads. “Clearly, reform was needed from the office of the president to the small groups at Fish Camp and at every level in between.”
Other complaints are now typical ones from conservatives in their assault on Texas education. Critical race theory is cited as one of the many issues that must be dealt with, as well as “entitlement culture.” While the latter term is not defined in the documents, it rather clearly implies the speaking up against symbols of white supremacy.
Also on the chopping block, The Battalion itself. The Rudder wants to supplant it with a more conservative-friendly publication published off-campus.
“The Battalion has become a publication with a singular point of view and very little diversity of thought. I don’t think there is any way we can change it into a campus ‘newspaper’ anytime soon,” one newsletter reads. “However, with the help of the student body, we may just pull it off. In the meantime, we will create an alternative student-run online newspaper, off-campus, with a different name.”
A subsequent statement from The Rudder pushed back against this idea, saying that it was no longer on the table and that they had no wish to interfere with the Battalion’s First Amendment rights.
That may be true, but the Battalion is seeing some sudden hardships from school leadership. Last month, it was announced that the paper would no longer be allowed to run a print edition, leaving it an online-only publication. Though the order is not officially connected with the expose on The Rudder, it is worth mentioning that The Rudder has extremely powerful members who can put significant influence on the administration.
These include figures like state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who spoke with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick over concerns about A&M and the desire to see some leadership changes. Patrick, it’s worth noting, has been leading his own crusade against Texas colleges, hoping to end the tenure program and make it easier to fire teachers who say things that may upset powerful interests.
If the end of the print-run is a warning shot against the Battalion, it will be one more battle in the Texas conservative war against education.