As a distinct section of the paper, Comment’s history only dates back to 2009, but opinions have formed an important part of The Courier since it began 61 years earlier. While occasional comment articles appeared in the paper, particularly in the tumultuous years of the early 1990s, for much of The Courier‘s history the voices of students were heard through the letters page. Debates could often rage for weeks on end, and it was not uncommon for the editorial team to publish notices that no more letters on particular topics would be accepted. Letters were often published that criticised The Courier, with both sides from the paper’s feud with the Socialist Society in the early 1970s able to have their letters published.
Students rarely wrote in to talk about something positive, and the letters page was often a selection of complaints and insults. Things turned particularly nasty during the debate over the Mens Bar name in 1991, with many letters including homophobic slurs and personal attacks, and on many occasions arguments went back and forth between individuals, with each response angrier than the last.
By the mid-90s the letters page was more likely to feature people trying to be funny than thoughtful discussion. 1995, for example, saw a long-running debate over the sexual prowess of men named Mark, and by the end of the decade the letters page had evolved into a not-particularly-serious agony aunt column. Occasional serious letters were also published, even as recently as 2012, but in the fun-filled Courier of the late-90s and early 2000s opinions were optional extras.
In 2002 a columnist page was added, which developed into a general “comment” section and grew in size until it warranted its own section editors in 2009. Unlike letters, which generally focussed on University matters, comment writers could now discuss anything from tuition fees to global geopolitics.
While the size of the comment section has declined from its 4-page peak in 2013, it continues to cover a wide range of topics. Debates between two or more writers are now an established part of the section, and bigger features, where several writers give their perspective on a particular topic, have also become more common.