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Editors' Note

Editors’ Note

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Earlier this week, The Herald published two opinions columns that were not only controversial but also deeply hurtful. Errors in the editing process aside, we understand that these columns contained racist content that has no place in our paper or community. The first (“The white privilege of cows,” Oct. 5) was built on eugenics and invoked the notion of biological differences between races — a concept that has been repeatedly disproven. The second (“Columbian Exchange Day,” Oct. 6) made the racist argument that Native Americans should be thankful for colonialism (despite the massacres and erasure of peoples and histories).

We are also cognizant of the continued confusion and hurt our actions created in the immediate aftermath of the columns’ publication, and we apologize for our role in that. On Monday night, we made a decision not to publish the second column after the paper had been sent to our publisher and the article had been posted online. Unfortunately, we were unable to stop its printing. As soon as we made that decision, we removed the column from our website. We recognize why these actions seemed designed to brush over our mistake.

We as The Herald are part of a history of Brown that is founded on inequality and that is too often slow to change. Brown itself is built on land that belonged to the Narragansett and Wampanoag nations, and yet the University has no formal relationships with them. As the composition of our campus community becomes more inclusive and diverse, this shift calls existing practices into question, including those of The Herald. Newspapers have a sacred responsibility to promote the free exchange of ideas, but that responsibility is designed to protect both those with controversial opinions and those whose voices are frequently excluded. The Herald’s opinions section has too infrequently been a platform for the latter.

By failing to be more inclusive of marginalized voices, The Herald does not fully live up to its potential or our community’s expectations. We must continue to make active efforts to recruit and retain a diverse staff. Without this, we will continue to fall short and repeat our mistakes. To those who have been most deeply hurt, we ask you to share your voice with us and with the Brown community at large. Understandably, this is an unequal burden, but we cannot progress without help.

This is not the first time The Herald has published racist material, and while we hope it will be the last, a promise is not enough. Over the next three weeks, the organization’s editorial board will reexamine the editorial processes that allowed these mistakes and previous ones to happen. Because people’s opinions are messy and often controversial, we will rethink the standards by which we evaluate columns. We will also revisit our existing editing process, including its structure and timeline, and seek the advice of professional journalists and the community, particularly centers that deal with dimensions of social identity. Incidents like this week’s force us to interrogate our existing policies and practices — a challenging yet desperately important process.

We regret the hurt that we have caused. The Herald’s blind spots are not lost on us. The publication of these columns reminds us how far we still have to go.

Editors’ notes are written by the 125th Editorial Board: Michael Dubin ’16, Maxine Joselow ’16, Kiki Barnes ’16, Jillian Lanney ’16, Isobel Heck ’16 and Molly Schulson ’16.

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  1. The Herald should be supporting an “opinions” column, not a “popular opinions” column. I too find many of the ideas in the posts rather insensitive, but that quality should be irrelevant in determining the posts’ fitness for publication. The notion that an idea has been “repeatedly disproven” does not preclude one from being able to argue it—even if it has been disproven thousands of times—yet that is what the editors are implying in the first paragraph above.

    In some areas, this note actually reads like an informal rebuttal to Maier’s arguments, by citing specific studies and conclusively labelling Maier’s arguments as racist. Such a rebuttal would be welcomed if a) the rebuttal was not coming from the editorial board and b) the rebuttal did not include an effective retraction of the Maier’s opinion, suggesting that the editorial board has the appropriate view on the matter and Maier’s extreme view is too unpopular or too wrong for publication. The editorial board is a referee, and should not be taking sides.

    In fact, the publication of Maier’s controversial opinions has already accomplished the goal that every opinion column should seek to achieve – it has stirred debate. No one would be discussing Columbus’s atrocities or the significance of Fall Weekend with such fervor had the Herald chosen to withhold the post, as it now wishes it had done. Instead of apologizing for an error, the Herald should capitalize on this rare period of conversation and publish a dissenting opinion (i.e. from a Native American student or from a history professor well-versed in the development of agriculture) in response to Maier.

    Until this paper truly respects its aforementioned sacred duty to support the free exchange of ideas—all ideas—I fear that many outside the Brown community will continue to view it as a juvenile paper-in-training.

    • the BDH can do as it pleases, but there the BDH is not necessarily entitled to the reputation of a reputable journal. If it wishes to publish Maier’s yellow journalism, it is becoming a tabloid.

      The Brown Daily Tabloid…. the BDT has a nice ring to it.

    • Even the most reputable newspapers acknowledge the fine line between “repeatedly disproven” and “completely irresponsible and damaging to provide a platform for.” For example, segregationist policies at one point crossed the line from “unpopular” to “undeserving of a reputable newspaper’s platform.” How would it look if, say, the New York Times gave a segregationist two columns tomorrow and provided a rebuttal alongside? Thought-provoking, or just plain bad?

      As long as newspapers have existed, editorial teams have been assessing the difference between “unpopular” and “unacceptable to print.” They’re under no obligation to print every single thing that comes their way. What they decide to print is what separates the good teams from the ones that, ahem, fail by giving eugenicist policies space on their op-ed page in 20-effing-15.

      • Who gets to define what is unacceptable? That’s the crux, isn’t it. One side gets to marginalize and demonize another by making it seem as if the views of the other are “shameful” until it becomes so in the psyche of the majority and then all debate of the subject in question is shut down.

    • Do you propose that the paper should print opinions that advocate discredited theories of the earth’s shape?
      There’s no need to print things that have been proven false, as if someone’s belief in those things somehow makes them deserving of a platform. There’s no need for debate, because there actually is no legitimate reason for debate on some issues.

      • It is not a discredited theory that there are alternative ways of looking at Columbus Day. So yes, I do propose that they print opinions that advocate an opinion. The whole point of free speech is that it isn’t up to you or one college campus to decide what is worthy of debate. That is not within your right.

      • The shape of the Earth is readily apparent to all with their own eyes, post-Space Race. Theories on race and ethnicity and genetic predispositions to certain diseases, physiology, phenotype, and behaviors are still evolving, since Science is never “settled” and new theories always pop up around the next corner. History evolves too, as more facts are brought to light, and it certainly lacks the same rigor of Science in falsifiability.

    • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

      “Until this paper truly respects its aforementioned sacred duty to support the free exchange of ideas — all ideas — I fear that many outside the Brown community will continue to view it as a juvenile paper-in-training.”
      Would you favor the Brown Daily Herald publishing the views of a member of the student body who supports the positions, activities, and goals of the late-Meir Kahane and calls for the late-Mr. Kahane’s aims to be enacted in the United States and/or his homeland?
      Or does that simply not count, ‘cuz, well, you know…?

      • John_in_Amherst says:

        Full Definition of SOPHOMORIC
        : conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature

        • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

          Been looking in the mirror a lot, Johnny?
          Or did you get that insight from the glare on your desktop/laptop/most likely Mommy-and-Daddy-Bought-and-Paid-Butler/Nanny-Delivered iPhone screen?

          • John_in_Amherst says:

            sorry kid, but I grew up in the 60’s in a now-defunct rust belt town – no rich relatives, no trust fund, no insulation from a tough life. and you?

          • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

            Well, your response reads like that of someone produced, and nurtured, by one of the ” ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown,” as so defined by Better Dead Than Ted of Hahvud, Hahvud Law, and the Republic of Texas.
            Or perhaps your nurturing in the ’60s (with the apostrophe in the non-“minor-Ivy” location) involved the excessive consumption of certain plants? An excessive consumption factor that continues until this day?
            Either way, there’s a lot of Kahane in your (rather feeble) game.

          • John_in_Amherst says:

            spare us your bull. your snark only further illustrates the definition offered above.

          • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

            Don’t blame me for the ” ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown”, your extensive exposure and/or subsequent use of certain herbal products in the 60s, or your inability to correctly employ the apostrophe.
            The former belongs to Better Dead Than Ted of Hahvud and Hahvud Law.
            The latter pair belong strictly to you.

          • John_in_Amherst says:

            ditto my last remark

          • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

            Same here.

  2. John Cena for president says:

    “Repeatedly disproven”.

    The biological consensus isn’t clear, my friend. That Times article was written in 2000, and the field of genetics has changed quite a bit since then. Yes, racism is despicable, but there’s been science that has proven that there are genetic differences between “races” (the usage of the term race is still wrong, but using “breed” just feels wrong as well, and is reminiscent of 19th century racist eugenics).

  3. For some of us who are alums, the BDH has in the distant past (with totally different staff) published some very offensive material… racism is probably the least of it…. sexism, and anti-religious commentaries were published.

    Sometimes stuff like this makes me wonder about what Brown’s student body is like. How do they go to an ivy league school and think this way?

    • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

      “How do they go to an ivy league school and think this way?”
      Money and breeding.

    • What’s offensive differs in interpretation, or did you learn nothing about being able to look at things from the viewpoints of others when you were being programmed by your professors?

  4. It seems irresponsible for the Editorial Board of what is supposed to be an objective news source to take a side on an opinions piece. I read the article and while I understand someone thinking that it is “insensitive” it certainly did not make racial claims of superiority in any given sense. It seemed to me that she was trying to make an argument about an alternate way of looking at the holiday. She even explicitly says that Native Americans have every right to feel angry about this nation’s historical treatment of them. The fact that this is an opinion the general student body “disagrees” with is not reason enough to censor her. If this publication truly believed in a free exchange of ideas than it would publish another editorial by someone who can articulate why they disagree rather than silencing an opinion they simply don’t like. It’s slightly embarrassing to me that I go to a university where people become enraged from hearing a point of view they don’t like.

    • in Bey-o speramus says:

      Publishing a piece is taking a side. The side being that the piece contains valid/novel/productive lines of thought, is in line with the values of the publication, and deserves a broad platform. If one thinks any of those apply to the piece this drama is about, well, they aren’t bright or well read enough to attend have reasoned discourse with.

      • Yes as a writer you can write an opinion piece. that’s the whole point of the section. As an Editorial Board and as a Newspaper, they should not choose a side. Any professional journalist would agree

        • in Bey-o speramus says:

          You’re arguing the BDH should publish all opinion pieces received that are free of grammatical errors regardless of content? Really?

          • Why not, so long as they don’t espouse open violence or de jure discrimination?

          • in Bey-o speramus says:

            I fundamentally disagree (if I wanted to read randomized opinions I’d go to a reddit comments section not a reputable publication based in an academic setting) but at least you’re consistent.

          • So you just want to hear only the choir preaching, IOW? Let’s all confirm our prejudices by reading only those who agree with us.

          • in Bey-o speramus says:

            No, I just think if I wanted to read all opinions that fit a certain word count and without grammatical errors I’d peruse some blogs, not a purportedly reputable publication. And isn’t your entire argument that reading dissenting opinions should confirm your prejudices anyway? Because nothing confirms my prejudices more than reading racist drivel… namely my prejudices regarding what does and does not constitute a worthwhile opinion fitting with the standards of a reputable publication and not the national enquirer or a stormfront rant.

          • Dissenting opinions may confirm one’s prejudices, but you can’t say that you weren’t exposed to the other side of the argument. Not wanting to even do that much probably means your beliefs wouldn’t stand up to reflection and willful ignorance is the order of the day. Labeling that with which you disagree “racist” is a rather typical “progressive” reaction and it certainly does end inconvenient debates you were not winning.

      • you are a bit of a twit aren’t you? You are neither bright nor well read, and apparently completely incapable of reasoned discourse. Perhaps after you read JS Mill’s “On Liberty” 10 times,you might have an inkling of what reasoned discourse is. At this point the only function you should have at a Tertiary Institution of learning, is that of floor cleaner

    • Even if you accept Maier as a deviant but unpopular piece, the opinion she espouses is not really accurate and is dire need of proper citations:
      (1) Maier thinks that European history was shaped solely by agriculture. … Really? religion had nothing to do with shaping it? centuries of technology and science were developed b/c of cows? art, culture? these were all b/c of domesticated cows? technically, even civilizations like india had domesticated cows (although they were not eaten).

      (2) What is this near east Maier describes? what constitutes this? The ottomon empire? the persians? the ancient greeks? which cultures fits the description she provides? the article implies that the ‘near east’ had no agriculture and was largely driven by non agrarian pursuits. how does that work? greek geometry was driven by agriculture. many ancient civilization grew up around rivers and oceans b/c of the need for agriculture, so it seems they too required agriculture to survive.

      (3) where is maier’s bibliography?

      The conclusion one would draw from Maier is that Europe was a bunch of farmers who sat around and flourished b/c of this. The middle east was a completely non-agrarian society that flourished b/c of ‘jaw dropping’ developments.

      Real history was more like this: Europe developed agriculture like most ancient civilizations. due to its ideal geography and climate, civilizations flourished. Over time, roman culture brought the concept of empire and jurisprudence, greeks brought logic and scientific inquiry, religion brought justice and ideals of mankind that influenced the centuries of development.

      Meanwhile, the near east was an area of constant flux. Many ancient civilizations came and went. Some were so ephemeral that its possible we have no record of them. Some were quite complex and some weren’t. some were war-like like the assyrians. it is questionable if any modern culture in the middle east today has a direct link to any of the ancient near east civilizations. What happened to the Macedonians or the Hittites? the modern denizens of turkey have little relationship to its inhabitants in B.C.E. Even in recent modern history, that area of the world keeps changing its borders and demographic makeup.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

      i don’t necessarily think it’s irresponsible for them to have “[taken] a side” in deeming the article too low-quality for publication, but it is absolutely inappropriate for them to have matter-of-factly characterized the cows column as “built on eugenics”. that is literally false. it’d be uncharitable to even say that maier’s line of argumentation justified eugenics, but it is simply untrue to say that the column was “built on” eugenics.

      idk whether the editors don’t understand what “built on” means or don’t understand what “eugenics” means – either way, they should not have written that.

  5. Mike Aldax says:

    So human-caused climate change is proven (at least in my view and the
    views of many others, many of them scientists) but someone wants to
    write an opinion piece saying otherwise, citing studies from other
    scientists. Do you eliminate that piece because in your minds (and mine)
    it is disproven? Are we truly unwilling to listen to additional science that could (who knows?) possibly prove our beliefs wrong? Or is this decision solely to not offend sensitive people? Seems like a slippery slope to me. I want my child to
    attend a university where he will be safely exposed to different ideas
    from his own, including those that are offensive. I don’t want him just
    to know that racism is wrong (it’s my job to teach him to respect
    others, anyway), I want him to also get to the bottom of why racism
    exists. For example, I don’t want him to think waving the Confederate
    flag is wrong without researching the topic from both sides of the
    issue. I want him to understand the history of the flag, why people
    still wave it and vehemently support it. I have to be prepared for the
    fact that my boy might empathize with Confederate flag supporters, even
    if I do not. The last thing I want is my boy to be driven into the
    thoughtless, reactionary echo chambers where so many progressives and
    tea partiers end up. I want him to do proper research on both sides.

  6. Ron Ruggieri says:

    As a democratic Socialist I have always thought anti-racism is inseparable from class struggle issues. I just read Brown professor’s Ken Miller’s opinion column ( October 31,2013 ) on his vivid memory of American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell’s controversial ( to say the least ) speech at Brown University on November 30, 1966. Miller clearly thinks it is important to know the beast because IT CAN HAPPEN HERE . Even right wing Donald Trump reminds this 60s ” radical ” of the Sinclair Lewis Depression Era novel about how fascism can come to America.
    The removal of an ” offensive ” column only arouses my curiosity about the author. If his column invites COMMENT -like right here- why the panic over obnoxious views ? Saner , more informed minds can always check any pernicious column or article even in a student newspaper.
    Does a self appointed moral elite get to decide the limits of tolerance for different views ? Could Black Muslim Malcolm X speak on your campus today ? A lot of haughty anti-racist academics -rather curiously-have no quarrel with the capitalist system. Malcolm X linked capitalism with racism : ” Show me a capitalist and I’ll show you a blood sucker “, Malcolm said. Was he a hater too ? Malcolm told blacks kids in Harlem : you must above all think for yourself. Good advice for Ivy League scholars.

    • in Bey-o speramus says:

      Are these actual questions you’d like answers for or are they rhetorical questions that are supposed to get at something, I legitimately cannot tell.

      • Ron Ruggieri says:

        Should you think for yourself about controversial matters ? Highly rhetorical question ! I guess the only thing I am getting at is freeing a new generation from ruling class prejudice and censorship. Show me a first rate mind whose FEELINGS are hurt by any claptrap .
        Do you think that the ruling class has no influence on the venerable Brown Daily Herald ?

        • in Bey-o speramus says:

          Having your feelings hurt by racism is evidence of not having a first rate mind? And who is this ruling class? What are you talking about.

          • Ron Ruggieri says:

            Above all evils like racism must be understood. For centuries humans hated disease but could only began to understand disease when the French scientist Louis Pasteur began to study germs under the microscope. The evils of human society also have a rational explanation. There is nothing natural or permanent about this class divided society that breeds racism and impoverishes 80 percent of the human race. The ruling class is that ONE PERCENT economic elite who dominate in every which way American society. Naturally they think that a world in which they are on top is the best of all possible worlds.
            I suspect nine out of ten Brown professors are as clueless as you are about our class divided society. But the Brown Daily Herald has digitized its archives . In that tumultuous year 1968 many Brown students had become radicalized by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. They woke up to race and class oppression in American society. Then the Reagan Era, the collapse of the Soviet Union- which did not vindicate the capitalist way of life- and then this endless ” war on terrorism ” which has dulled CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS in America- taken us back to the stupid patriotism of the Great War- the war to make the world safe for democracy.
            If you want some historic insight on CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS , read the socialist leader Eugene V.Debs ‘ famous anti-war Canton Speech.
            If you pay some attention even to that ” socialist ” Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, you might begin to understand what I am talking about . Show up for work one day with a VOTE SOCIALIST button and you will quickly learn something about our ruling class.
            But it is not unlikely that a naive Brown student was just born into it.The American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about his socialist epiphany in his first book ” This Side of Paradise “.

        • Apparently Brown is full of mediocre minds and deserves its spot at the bottom of the Ivy League.

  7. NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

    Can’t see why the Editorial Board apologized.
    Just doing what Self-Admitted Felon Dinesh D’Souza and Single Mommy With Three Kids Laura Ingraham did during their Ivy League days to gain street cred with the Conservative think tanks, offshore paymasters, policy shops, Fox News, talk radio, and Boss Ailes.
    When the Editorial Board starts screaming, then Mark Levin will pick up the board’s First Amendment cause.
    Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

    • Why would you talk about Laura Ingraham that way? She adopted needy kids – somehow that is bad?

      • NepotismIsDomesticTerrorism says:

        Single Mama Laura’s not giving her bought-and-paid-for tax-write-offs the Real White Man Conservatives demand they must have in their lives.
        Or ain’t you read much of that self-admitted Federal Felon, Din Din D’Souza?

  8. Utterly cowardly by the editorial board. Both opinion pieces were controversial and designed to provoke reactions. They were poorly written, but neither one was racist.

    The editors above should either resign or be removed. Trying to retroactively unpublish an opinion piece makes them completely unworthy of the title “journalist.”

  9. Break out the smelling salts and clear the path to the fainting couches!! Someone got their feewings hurt.!!
    What a cold slap-in-the-face life outside of the bubble is going to be for these folks.

  10. And their urge to censor even shows up in the comments! Fascists…

  11. John K. Wilson says:

    If the newspaper is failing to publish diverse voices, then the editors should try to add more diversity. But that has nothing to do with censorship, which this is. You don’t promote diversity by banning anything deemed racist. It’s particularly disturbing that the newspaper is trying to whitewash history by removing a column it already published.

    • Wilson is not your last name.

      It is disturbing that you are protecting fascists pieces like this.

  12. John_in_Amherst says:

    This is not a matter of being excessively PC. Not all opinion is worthy of publication. That’s one reason editors exist, to spare the world poorly written and offensive reading material. College is a place of learning, and hopefully this lesson will not need repeating.

    Maier might find some interesting reading in “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Diamond, an eloquent refutation of the notion that genetic superiority led to Europe’s domination of the world between 1800 and 2000. The rich and privileged of every age and culture are usually curiously blind to the roll of luck in their lives.

    • Who gets to decide what is “worthy”?

      • John_in_Amherst says:

        That’s part of an editor’s job. They make value judgements all the time. They are not obligated to publish anything that comes into their postal or e-mail. Did you ever submit anything to be published? Most submissions do not find their way into print. Just because an opinion is novel or shocking does not mean it is worthy of dissemination. Maier has a right to his opinions, and, failing to find a willing editor, if he is intent on getting them into the public domain, he can xerox pages and hand them out, or grab a spot on a corner and harangue passers-by. He is not automatically entitled to be published.
        A publication (and the institution it represents) has a responsibility to its readers. I usually choose NOT to read publications from the Murdoch media empire, because I am familiar with their quality, political viewpoint and lack of objectivity, which all reflect decisions by their editors. Brown’s official news paper reflects values and integrity of the institution, and by extension, it’s students, faculty and alumni. If the editors of the Daily Herald want it to be known for slap-dash hack jobs, poorly reasoned, racist and generally offensive, they have taken a step to do so. But not without consequences.

        • John Smith says:

          IOW, whatever fits with their biases. Gotcha….

          • John_in_Amherst says:

            Being biased in favor of civility, intellectual integrity and journalistic acumen is not a negative attribute for an editor, or anyone else.

          • Do tell. I imagine that constitutes being supportive of Political Correctness and “Progressive” politics.

  13. I read the Columbus Day article and found nothing wrong with it. Opinions belong in the opinion section of the paper. You won’t agree with everyone one of them. Duh.

  14. You poor, poor, people!

    Did the Red Guards send you to a re-education camp? Were you forced to write this travesty with a gun pointed at the heads of your relatives?

    Journalists are supposed to have backbone. You don’t. This nonsense is going to follow you for the rest of your careers.

    And just a thought: You and your advisers should remember that all students, regardless of their opinions, have the same right of access to your pages. What you are doing is probably illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It’s called “viewpoint discrimination” — look it up.

  15. Obviously, the only just solution to Brown’s many sins is the complete dissolution of the institution. Let its assets be divided among all those injured by its very existence.

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