February 28, 2008

Max Karson's Campus Press "Satire" Draws Rally And Suspension, Even More Calls For Apologies

"It will never be law, however, because the Supreme Court, no matter how conservative or liberal it might be, will never approve its manifest capriciousness, both as law and social policy. But it can weasel its way into practice if people who should know better, people such as Chancellor Peterson and Dean Voakes, validate "offensiveness" as the arbiter of free speech in university discourse. That is the kind of thing that really does do damage"--Peter Michelson, Professor emeritus of English at CU


Max Karson


Rallying to protest Max Karson and the Campus Press, singing "We Shall Overcome"

Max Karson's "satirical" editorial continues to enrage the professionally outraged activists at CU:
The University of Colorado student author of an opinion column that garnered national attention for saying Asians "hate us all" and should be hated back was suspended from the Campus Press newspaper staff Wednesday.

"Max Karson's duties with the Campus Press have been suspended pending a restructuring of the opinions section," according to a statement posted on the student paper's Web site Wednesday.
. . .
The statement goes on to say that the publication's editors are in the process of organizing an "open, public forum to address diversity sensitivity in our news coverage" and are rewriting their ethics policy.

The announcement came the same day university officials said they're close to announcing major changes in the way the paper is operated and overseen.
The transparency of the process is astounding:
Faculty members within the CU School of Journalism and Mass Communication met behind closed doors for more than two hours Wednesday to discuss how to best change the management structure of the Campus Press, a class that operates within the school, so that offensive content doesn't get published.
Concessions, concessions--and more apologies from the CU administration:
Paul Voakes, dean of the journalism school, did release a statement from the faculty group that served equally as an apology.

"This (column) is the antithesis of what we're trying to teach in our school," Voakes said. "The faculty and I take responsibility for the offense that the Campus Press obviously has caused."

He called Karson's column an "editorial mistake" that should have been caught.
Even local politicians have gotten involved:
Boulder City Manager Frank Bruno released a statement saying, "Discrimination is not what Boulder is about."
Unless you're a conservative in Boulder.

More faux rage, and the Feds!:
Also, about 150 students gathered on the University Memorial Center south plaza for a rally and demonstration against the Campus Press.

Chris Choe, a 21-year-old senior and member of the Korean American Students at Boulder group who led the rally, said he hopes the university's administration fundamentally changes how content is reviewed before it's published by the class.

"I want to see responsibility," Choe said. "I want to see that this isn't being marginalized."

Later, the group migrated to a large auditorium on the campus for a forum among Campus Press representatives, CU officials and student leaders.

Federal mediators brought in by student organizers from the U.S. Department of Justice moderated the public meeting, in which students continued to call for changes at the online student paper and in which Campus Press editors offered apologies for any pain that Karson's column caused.
Finally, the Campus Press editors offered their mea culpas to the seething ragists:
"The mistake that I made when I published the article was thinking that my reactions spoke for everyone," Editor-in-Chief Cassie Hewlings, who sat somberly through the meeting, told the crowd. "I am so incredibly sorry. I didn't want to hurt anyone.

"I've learned more this past week than I have my whole 22 years of life."
You're right Cassie. There is no place for free speech--including stupid, misguided (but publicity-seeking) satire--in Boulder, or at CU.

Text of the complete Campus Press apology.

Professor emeritus Peter Michelson excoriates the cult of "offensiveness" that threatens free speech on college campuses (but can't help himself in taking a swipe at conservative media in the process):
In the context of education these are plausible punishments. But the real lesson here is that free speech at CU -- i.e. speech for which one will not be, as the Chinese have it, "re-educated" -- is subject to the literary standards of a not particularly literate chancellor, the offensiveness quotient of a Student Diversity Advisory Board and anonymous "professional journalists of color," and opinion standards of "experienced opinion editors." If these journalists and editors of opinion were to include personnel from, say, The Washington Times, The National Review, and the Fox network as well as the tasteful local media, to say nothing of the Camera's Heath Urie and CU's own PR department, then the standards of vulgarity, mendacity, incompetence and offensiveness should not set the bar beyond the reach of even such a determinedly errant student writer/editor as Max Karson.

But then, how "wrong" was Mr. Karson? If one goes to the Campus Press Web site, one can read his column. Contrary to the chancellor's characterization, it is clearly indicated as opinion and commentary, and it is conspicuously obvious as satire. Further, its satirical context reveals how the presumably professional Camera reporter's description "got it wrong." So why would the dean of the journalism school ignore the evidence before his eyes, precisely what the Campus Press faculty adviser had seen and apparently approved, and take up the chancellor's righteously wrong-headed cudgel?

The real issue here is not whether Mr. Karson's satire is poor or sophomoric. Nor is it an issue of "damage," as the chancellor claimed. Whatever the resolutions of CU's Student Union Legislative Council or the public "upset" for which Dean Voakes felt obliged to apologize, Karson's article could not and has not damaged anyone or thing, including the reputation of the university. The real issue is that the chancellor feared or was told it was "offensive."

Offensiveness is what accounts for how the reporter, the chancellor and the dean took a shot at Kid Karson's epistle and "got it wrong." A cult of offensiveness has developed out of a "feel good' ethos, whereby everybody is supposed to have the right to feel good. Its ideology thrives on college campuses and even extends to the law. Serious legal scholars have proposed that First Amendment rights be measured by the offensiveness quotient of an utterance, that one's right to speak be moderated by whether it offends Mrs. Grundy or the ACLU or the Moral Majority or the Muslim community or the Asian community or Chancellor "Bud" Peterson.

It will never be law, however, because the Supreme Court, no matter how conservative or liberal it might be, will never approve its manifest capriciousness, both as law and social policy. But it can weasel its way into practice if people who should know better, people such as Chancellor Peterson and Dean Voakes, validate "offensiveness" as the arbiter of free speech in university discourse. That is the kind of thing that really does do damage.
So much for diversity of opinion at CU.

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