Why we criticize Principia

Recently, the Pilot was accused of failing to live up to the Monitor’s standard after we published a story about sexual harassment at Principia, because the story implied that established processes for dealing with sexual harassment complaints do not always work as they should. With great respect for differing opinions, we disagree with those who say that this article was not a blessing to the Principia community. We feel that the community’s response to what it reads in our pages ultimately determines the extent to which our content blesses the campus.

At the Pilot, we certainly make an effort to publish stories that celebrate what is right with Principia. In this issue, for example, we invite you to enjoy tributes to departing faculty members, in-depth coverage of the creation of the Teaching Excellence Center and Center for Sustainability, and a spotlight on visiting Annenberg Scholar Susan Vreeland, among other stories. Over the past year, we have published previews of Principia’s dance production and spring musical, highlighted inspiring student initiatives, and celebrated the success of the year’s visiting weekends. We love being able to point out the good that happens every day at Principia.

We would be irresponsible journalists, however, if we did not also have the courage to report on what could be better at the college. In fact, we believe that this is one of our most important roles. By pointing out what could be better, we are opening the door for discussions about how Principia, as an institution, can be better.

We urge the community at large not to shy away from such discussions, but instead to welcome them, and to make them productive and meaningful.

The Pilot, of course, shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. Over the past year, we have received several complaints about how we handled certain stories. Most of those complaints were constructive, and we welcomed them and used them — not only to correct factual errors, but also to help us become a stronger newspaper staffed by better journalists. We continue to be grateful for opportunities to improve as a newspaper, and we expect many similar opportunities to be presented to us in the future.

We are disheartened, however, by complaints apparently stemming from the perception that any story which portrays Principia as a less-than-perfect institution amounts to bad journalism. This type of thinking is narrow and damaging, and if it is allowed to dominate the discourse at the college, we feel the institution will be harmed. The Pilot publishes stories that point out what could be better at Principia because we strongly believe that our community is in a unique position to deal with these stories through prayer that leads to healing actions. We hope that our readers do more than just read stories about Principia’s challenges. Instead, we hope that these stories spur our readers to prayerfully and practically contribute to the betterment of our college and our community.

To those who would like the Pilot to shy away from reporting what could be improved at Principia, we hear you, but we respectfully disagree with your perspective. We are proud of the courageous reporting that the Pilot has offered for many years. We hope that next year’s staff will continue to bless this community by celebrating the college’s triumphs and boldly uncovering its challenges.

Teaching Excellence Committee


In its second year of existence, a little-known committee aimed at improving teaching quality is dreaming big.

The Teaching Excellence Committee (TEC), pioneered by Principia professors, has stepped up the pace to expand and retool its goals after a successful first year.