Mailbag: Letters to the editor for the week of Feb. 12
Here are the letters to the editor we received for the week of Feb. 12, 2018. Letters can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Western Front should change its name
Your article “Cultural appropriation at Western and how it can be avoided” (Feb 7, 2018) has finally moved me to speaking out about an issue that has bothered me ever since I joined Western almost 13 years ago. It’s the name of our newspaper, “The Western Front”. As most people are aware, it’s a crude play on the title of the anti-war novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” (“Im Westen nichts Neues” in the original German) by Erich Maria Remarque.
Growing in West Germany in the 1980s and 90s, this novel had a very special significance for me and my generation because its vivid, gut-wrenching description of the brutality and de-humanizing senselessness of trench combat in the first World War made it an iconic warning of the consequences of war, a flash point for of our collective resolve to never become a willing pawn in a war borne of blind nationalism the way our grandfathers and great-grandfathers had.
In fact, when I decided to become a conscientious objector when conscripted into military service in 1993, I specifically singled out the impact of the novel in my required written justification, especially one scene in which the protagonist is stuck inside a manhole with a dying enemy soldier he has just mortally wounded, having to face the essential humanity of the other.
I’m tired of having to see the title of this book used for a cheap, thoughtless pun – not just once, but over and over again every time I see a copy of the “Western Front” on campus. It feels like a demeaning, disrespectful misappropriation of a literary work that holds a very special solemn significance to me and many others in Germany and around the world. I ask the editors and the University administration: Please do what’s right and change the name of the official WWU newspaper. It’s time.
Tilmann Glimm, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Mathematics
Western Washington University
Note from the editor:
For context, The Western Front existed under different names through the 1900s: The Weekly Messenger, The Northwest Viking, WWCollegian, Western Washington Collegian, The Collegian and, for a brief period, The Straight News.
In 1967, the editors of the paper decided that “The Collegian” was too popular a name for a college newspaper, and instead used “The Straight News” for a few issues while putting the name up to student vote.
In their call to students, the editors said, “Remember that this name will remain permanent. It should be a name that makes the newspaper readily distinguishable among other names and one that does not typify only a passing fad.”
The following week, the paper ran a ballot with a list of names including: The Straight News, The Western Front, The Cauldron, The Viking News, The Paper, The Heralder, The Dispatch and The Scoop.
The Western Front won with 336 out of 626 student votes and it has been the official name of the student newspaper ever since.
Do you have thoughts about the current name of The Western Front? Leave a comment or email us at email@example.com.
Editor-in-Chief of The Western Front