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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Column does disservice to campus community

As a teaching assistant on campus here who daily observes the way that racism functions within the UW academic community, I wanted to write to express my extraordinary dismay at your willingness to publish Andrew Carpenter's opinion column. I am all for diversity of opinion and First Amendment rights, but one would presume that some editorial discretion would have been warranted in this particular case. To allow those opinions to be disseminated campuswide to an almost lily-white student body is, at best, counterproductive to the university's project of minority recruitment and, at worst, completely alienates minority students and grants legitimacy to divisive racist sentiments to which Madison is certainly no stranger.

And that's really what's at stake here, Mr. Brace. There are few ways you can construe sentiments such as this: ""It makes sense to expect minority students to drop out at higher rates than white students now, since some minority students were not admitted solely on their ability to succeed at a Big Ten school,"" without admitting that you are publishing racist material. This article typifies historian Barbara Fields' observation that ""disguised as race, racism becomes something Afro-Americans [or other minorities] are, rather than something racists do."" You have, at base, offered a way for white students to justify their own racism, but simply recoded it to place the blame on the university for admitting minority students or, worse yet, on those minority students for being here at all. Rather than talking about ""race"" as the problem, a piece like this would be better directed as talking about the effects of ""racism,"" a problem on campus for many students, including Andrew Carpenter, apparently.

The question has to be asked of what, precisely, the motive is for publishing things like this. Any guess on that eludes me, but one suspects that, regardless of intent, the final result is to make minority students feel even less welcome on campus than many of them already do. Andrew's sweeping generalizations about the racially harmonious fantasy land that he sees evident on campus aside, UW has a serious problem in regard to racial diversity and tolerance, and this type of material isn't helping.

And all of that isn't even getting into the legacies of the historical inequities that affirmative action and race-based admissions work to combat. It's enormously problematic, and journalistically unsound, to not even offer a consideration of the reasons those systems exist in the first place. If Andrew is aware of them, he has to talk about them. If he's not, he has no business writing this piece in the first place. It reflects poorly on the Cardinal, on UW, and on the Madison student community.

It also reflects poorly on Andrew. While he does a disservice to himself by putting this into print, as his editor, you do the same by allowing it to go to press. Once you put such horrendously miscondsidered, misguided, and unjust material out, it stays there forever, particularly in today's internet age. One suspects that if he is pursuing a career in journalism, this will haunt him in that endeavor.

As a UW alum, current Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, I sincerely hope that you both address this matter in some way and make an effort toward doing better work in the future. We as a campus community deserve better.

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