October 27, 2003


JUSTICE SCANDAL UPDATE: There've been lots of developments in the Daniel Passner controversy up at my alma mater Brandeis; here's a brief roundup. For those coming to this newly, here's my original post, here's the account from a local paper in Framingham, and here's JawsBlog, who gets all the e-mails first, and is if you ask me the blogosphere's primary authority on the matter.
-Passner has resigned from the Justice, as has the paper's sports editor; the editor-in-chief Stephen Heyman, who had the wonderful luck of the major scandal erupting in this first issue at the helm, will likely escape unscathed. Passner has also stepped down from his position in the Student Union Senate.
-According to the Framingham MetroWest Daily News' version of events, the offending remark "was highlighted in red by a copy editor in training but never fixed," and the paper will now adopt a new system that ensures three editors read every bit of copy.
Funny- I was a Justice editor just three years ago, and our system at the time assured that every word of copy was read by the editor-in-chief, section editor, section editor's assistants, and usually one or two associate (former section) editors. Mistakes got by, of course, but never any racial slurs. For something as egregious as what Passner wrote to pass by without anyone even noting it aloud is perplexing, to say the least. Then again it's been alleged, in comments below and elsewhere, that the editors don't much like Passner and purposely hung him out to dry by including the quote, but I of course have no way of knowing the veracity of that.
-The Justice Editorial Board flubbed the ball big time, of course, but I think this battle is similar to the ones we used to have when the arts section would forget to review plays- the Justice editors (and writers) are not professional journalists, and therefore don't believe that they have to conduct themselves in that regard. They should of course strive for professionalism in their work, but that doesn’t mean they do.
-I received an e-mail this afternoon from the student, Passner's friend, to whom the quote was attributed. He says that he was "grossly misquoted," his quotes were taken out of context, and that he was "as surprised as anyone to see my name associated with such an abhorrent statement." Assuming that's true, I think he's got a pretty good libel case against his (presumably now-former) friend.
-I was sort of hoping that this incident could serve as a chance for the Brandeis campus to have a productive dialogue about race relations, and in some way encourage the school's different ethnic groups to get along. After all, I'd imagine there aren't many white students who agree with/approve of use of the n-word.
If only… ever since Tuesday the Brandeis left has been in its usual hysterical mode, once again proving that at Brandeis, '60s fantasies trump all else. At a forum hosted by the Justice editors in which the student body was essentially given free reign to slam them at will, the Black Student Organization (BBSO) staged a walkout at the beginning (not the middle, or end), the beginning of the forum. Then, the head of the Intercultural Center (ICC), the school's identity-politics umbrella organization, announced that he and his organization will no longer supply quotes to The Justice; university administrator Rick Sawyer, who from dealing with in the past I assumed was a sane, level-headed guy, has taken a similar pledge.
This makes little sense- since the publication of Passner's column, the paper has apologized, accepted the resignations of both Passner and the sports editor, hosted the forum, and agreed to run a front-page apology. In other words, it sounds to me like they've done everything right, and that they truly want to build bridges with the school's minority organizations (at least one editor was brought to tears during the forum). But the ICC -angry that the apology will only "begin" on the front page and continue elsewhere- has decided to ignore those overtures for no reason other than to be self-righteous; and besides, who ever heard of a source boycotting a newspaper for political reasons? Doesn't this hurt the ICC more than it helps?
- There's an interesting lesson here, that's just as true of Fox News Channel hosts as it is of campus activists: there's nothing more fun than outrage, or the pretense of outrage. Brandeis' activists have had the same reaction to Dan Passner calling Dusty Baker the n-word that Bill O'Reilly had to that death row inmate who wanted the government to pay for his sex change- outrage, but at the same time a perverse sense of both opportunity and superiority at the chance to take on such an off-the-charts, almost stereotypical enemy- as well as use it to push a pre-existing agenda. Some activists will attempt to portray the Passner incident as "a dark day in Brandeis history"- bullshit. To them, it's Christmas in October.
-The Justice's next issue comes out tomorrow- I'd put the over/under on Passner-related letters at around 25.
-And lastly, one line from the Student Union Senate's letter to the community just about made me fall off my chair:

In addition to supporting concerned students, the Student Union will continue to support both the Union Senate Diversity Committee and the "Creating Awareness: One Thought at a Time" diversity initiative launched earlier this month.

One thought at a time? One thought at a time? Anyone else get a bit of an Orwellian chill when a university's student government specifically endorses the concept of thought police?

Posted by Stephen Silver at October 27, 2003 07:14 PM
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