SPEAKING FREELY


Posted by Jacob Geiger ('09) in response to Professor Braunschneider


I read with great dismay today the criticisms of Prof. Braunschneider and others about my editorial from the May 12 issue of the Ring-tum Phi. I was not dismayed that she criticized me; on the contrary, I'm excited when my editorials provoke discussions -- either by e-mail or in person -- with community members. Instead, I was dismayed by the apparent feeling of her and other members of this forum that they would not get a fair hearing of their views if they wrote to the Phi in response to my editorial. I have been the Managing Editor of the Phi for 18 months. Before that, I served as News Editor for a year and also did a stint as Opinions Editor. In the last 2.5 years, we have never refused to run a letter to the editor.

She called my editorial "horribly misinformed" and argued that the SFHB does not conduct "secret" trials. I would disagree. The vast majority of students still do not know that a trial took place. We weren't supposed to know that a trial took place until after the event had occurred and the official statement had been posted. The accusers were allowed to hear the evidence against them, that's true. But were they allowed to question the evidence? Again, let me emphasize that I understand why SFHB complainants are granted confidentiality in rape or sexual assault cases. I just don't think that a speech case -- even if a charge of sexual harassment has been filed -- deserves the same confidentiality. In the justice system, rape victims may pursue the case and enjoy confidentiality. Is the same true when a harassment case occurs?

Prof. Braunschneider says that anonymity is needed because the complainant might be cross-examined by "well-meaning but under-trained honor advocates who have no special skill in interrogating without re-traumatizing or victim blaming." In my mind, it sounds like Prof. Braunschneider doesn't think honor advocates are really capable of defending the accused in these cases. If this is the case, then the accused are effectively unrepresented. If honor advocates aren't capable of working these cases, then are they capable of participating in EC hearings? Or are we sending students before the EC and SFHB -- two groups that have the power to expel students -- without adequate representation? I only raise this question because Prof. Braunschneider doesn't seem to think honor advocates can handle the job.

I wish faculty would remember that the Phi been very aggressive in the last few years about using our Opinions section as a forum for discussion. We've had long-ranging debates through letters and columns about everything from publishing arrest records to affirmative action admissions processes to the future of the Greek System and now on to the Bracket. In an earlier post, I mentioned that no SFHB members have stepped forward to publicly confront me about my editorial (Prof. Diette and I did exchange e-mails, and the gist of those e-mails is contained in our respective posts to this forum). Prof. Braunschneider referred me to her posts on this forum. Again, however, there was no attempt by anyone other than Prof. Diette to contact me directly, and there was no attempt to submit a response to me in the form of a letter to the editor (the only way to guarantee that a response reaches the same audience as the original editorial).

I was a little disappointed that Prof. Mayock thinks that "limited perspectives are being shared" in our newspaper when not one professor -- Prof. Richardson excluded -- has written in to us since our first issue after the Bracket. That issue of the Phi (March 10) contained letters from the Provost, Deans and Dr. Uffelman condemning the Bracket. There was also an editorial I wrote about the Bracket (condemning it) as well as editorials by several writers attacking it. There haven't, if I remember correctly, been any letters since. I think that's what I meant to when I said no SFHB members have stepped forward.

I think the Phi is such a great place for these discussions because it reaches the whole student body, faculty and administrators as well as the parents and alumni who are off campus but still interested in these issues. That's why I wish faculty weren't assuming that the Phi is no longer a place for discussion and debate. Let's face it; there will always be more people reading the Phi than there are reading the Speaking Freely Forum. That's why I hope the discussion will continue in the forum but also on our pages.

This forum is a providing some excellent discussion. But why is the discussion happening through e-mail and web postings instead of in front of the whole community?

will welcome criticisms of my writings and my ideas. But what distresses me is the insistence among some parts of the community that all student press are created equal and that the vast majority of students fit into the "socially powerful" category that has been attributed to Mulhern and Livingston (the Bracket authors). I worry that this association is the reason so few people have chosen to write in to the Phi with letters to the editor.

I think Prof. LeBlanc hit it perfectly when she asked to join Abel Delgado and be part of the Bracket. I'm part of the Bracket... or at least, I have been (check the past two years if you'd like). I and my staff have spent the last three years fighting to bring these and other important issues forward for public discussion. Our staff is full of men and women, liberals and conservatives (strong enough that we have a no politics rule in the office), Greeks and independents, journalism majors, English majors, science majors, politics majors and more. That's what's disappointing. The Phi has been fighting this and other battles. When drunk students and alumni attacked Traveller drivers, the Phi covered the problems and condemned them in the strongest possible terms. I've been through this before and suffered attacks (both verbal and physical) because of what I wrote. It's no accident that this newspaper has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists two years running for our editorial writing. We excel because we let a broad swath of voices -- in fact almost any voice -- have a say on our pages.

Prof. LeBlanc is correct in noting that the Silent 1300 are the reasons this campus continues to grapple with the issues of misogyny, assault, homophobia, racism and more. It's nice to see that the 1300 is finally shrinking in size.

 

Jacob Geiger

Managing Editor

The Ring-Tum Phi


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