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Vassar College Student Newspaper Apologizes Because “The Majority of Our Quotations Came From White Students”

Vassar College Student Newspaper Apologizes Because “The Majority of Our Quotations Came From White Students”

News coverage of planned student speaker disruption taken down because “[t]he majority of our quotations came from white students and … the paper decided to remove the article online in an attempt to prevent further harm….”

The Miscellany News is the student newspaper at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. In my rather expansive coverage of Vassar over the years, I’ve often relied on reporting by The Miscellany News as to campus events. While the quality of the reporting has varied, it’s generally been okay.

On February 27, 2022, I wrote about how Facing Threat of Student Protests, Former DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson Withdraws As Vassar College Commencement Speaker. Johnson was selected as Commencement Speaker in part because his deceased father was a beloved long-time professor at Vassar. At a superficial level, the story was about student intolerance and cancel culture, including plans to disrupt Johnson’s appearance, leading Johnson to withdraw:

[Inviting Johnson] was a nice and generous gesture. But it is not to be. Woke colleges can’t have nice things anymore when students take offense….

Yes, technically Jeh made the decision to withdraw, he wasn’t fired or barred from the slot. He was put in an untenable position, however, selected to honor his father, yet his appearance would be the subject of protests and distruption that would take away from that honor. Terrible…

You won’t be able to watch Jeh Charles Johnson’s Vassar Commencement speech. It won’t happen. Vassar can’t have that nice thing.

But there was another aspect of the story that was more troubling. The original article posted by The Miscellany News documenting student objections to Johnson and disruption plans was pulled down from the website not long after posting, but not before local media quoted it. I wrote [emphasis added]:

Oddly, the Miscellany News article quoted by WPDH was taken down from the website (after it also ran in print) and the link redirects to the Miscellany News home page. An email to the student newspaper seeking an explanation for the takedown and redirect received this response: “Thanks for reaching out. We found some factual inaccuracies in the article due to quick reporting, and we want to take time to address them thoroughly. Best of luck with your work.” As of this writing, they have not responded to my request for details as to what was inaccurate and why they didn’t just issue a correction.

The claim of “factual inaccuracies” leading to taking down the article was made in an email exchange between me and Janet Song, the Editor-in-Chief of The Miscellany News:

Sun, Feb 27, 5:12 PM

Hi Janet,

I’m writing about the withdrawal of Jeh Johnson as commencement speaker. I see that one of your articles no longer is on the website and the original url redirects to the home page, not an error page, which to me indicates a redirect was added. It’s still in the Wayback Machine, but I’m wondering why it was taken down and a redirect instituted. It’s possible I may write about this as soon as tonight (not certain, but possible), so if you could get back to me quickly that would be appreciated.

Thanks,

William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection website

* * *

Feb 27, 2022, 7:19 PM

Hi William,

Thanks for reaching out. We found some factual inaccuracies in the article due to quick reporting, and we want to take time to address them thoroughly. Best of luck with your work.

Best,
Janet

* * *

[from me]

Feb 27, 2022, 7:23 PM

Can you tell me what the factual inaccuracies were, and why you didn’t just issue a correction?

I never received a response to that last question asking for identification of the alleged factual inaccuracies.

The claim of “factual inaccuracies” for the article being taken down appears not to have been true. Today The Miscellany News published an apology for the article with an explanation that points to no inaccuracies.

Rather, according to the editors the article was taken down because too many white students were quoted which the student newspaper deemed harmful to the community, Apology from the editors [archived] (emphasis added):

Dear readers,

On Feb. 17, 2022, The Miscellany News released an article titled “Jeh Charles Johnson withdraws as 2022 commencement speaker” on both its website and the fourth print issue of its 157th volume. This article intended to report on student feelings about Johnson’s nomination and subsequent withdrawal. Since then, the online version of the article has been pulled from The Miscellany News website—a decision made by the Executive Board in concert with the News Editors. We would like to take this space to discuss the reasoning behind our decision and recognize the feelings of disappointment and hurt surrounding the article’s publication.

We would like to use this statement to both emphasize our values of diversity and inclusion, and delve deeply into our editorial process and the resulting article in question, especially since we understand that many people in the Vassar community are unaware of the article’s removal. We had originally planned to publish an article focused primarily on student responses to Johnson’s nomination, particularly the backlash that his selection received. However, on Feb. 14, the day we began editing and laying out our fourth issue, we received Johnson’s withdrawal statement from the College. In order to keep our reporting up to date, we drastically changed the article from focusing solely on student responses to the announcement of him as speaker into an article describing his withdrawal and the reaction from the student body. In this article, we attempted to include a variety of quotes from students describing why there was protest to the announcement of him as speaker in the first place, and the students’ reaction to his withdrawal.

In prioritizing urgency over thoroughness, we made misguided and insensitive oversights with whom we were representing in the article and failed to provide in-depth reporting of the issue at large. The majority of our quotations came from white students and therefore we reduced the positions of students of color to a singular, tokenized perspective. After this was brought to our attention, the paper decided to remove the article online in an attempt to prevent further harm among the communities we misrepresented.

However, misrepresentation is not the only issue in the article—to state so would be a grievous oversimplification. Our article exemplifies many of the institutional flaws and structural problems within our paper. Journalism, including college journalism, has historically been a white-centric, often elitist field, and The Miscellany News is not immune to the consequences of these structures. The publication of the article and its subsequent removal reminds us of the systemic issues our members are implicated in, as well as the privilege and lack of diversity that we have allowed to persist for generations across our boards. None of our explanations for the failures of an individual article can mitigate the problem of past coverage on issues related to people of color, nor address in full depth the issue of representation within our board.

This does not mean that change is improbable, but rather that consistent action must be taken in order to address the systemic problems within The Miscellany News. The changes we aim to make cannot immediately fix the issues that have dominated college journalism, but we will work to take both immediate and gradual steps. One of these steps includes our current process of making a review board that aims to examine quotes and sources to ensure both their veracity and the integrity of their representation within the article. The review board will be separate from the editorial board, and its members will view articles on a rotational basis.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the delay in releasing this editorial; we wanted to address the issue with the diligence that it demands, rather than release a swift but reactionary apology that does not cover the gravity or complexity of the situation. As a college newspaper, we want to emphasize that though we are committed to covering news of the Vassar community and campus, our main priority will always be to report all student voices to the best of our ability. We encourage students, including The Miscellany News Editorial Board, to partake in the dialogue regarding the issues at hand, as well as any future articles, topics or disputes on campus. We continue to push towards our goal of providing all of the most important news on campus while uplifting a diverse array of voices.

Thank you,

The Miscellany News

Note, the editors do not say that anything was inaccurate or that the quotes were wrong. They don’t say that the white students quoted were not representative of the overall campus view. (The Vassar Class of 2025 is 67% white.) They don’t say what views non-whites expressed were not reflected in the article. They could have expanded the article if that were the case, or run an article giving the supposedly ignored students a chance to give their opinions. Instead they tried to expunge it from the internet, and then cited supposed inaccuracies being the reason for the takedown.

I knew at the time the explanation given did not make sense. And it didn’t. This had nothing to due with journalistic accuracy, it was pure woke performance art.

This may seem funny, another case of woke college students gone wild. But it’s serious. It reflects the war on truth taking place in progressive institutions. Rather than striving for accuracy, the goal is to “represent” the community along identity lines. They even are establishing a review board as identity enforcer.

As bad as the current generations of journalists are, it appears it’s only going to get worse.

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Comments

It is surreal how they demand respect for their feelings as they disregard the feelings of other people, often from a “safe space.”

The Gentle Grizzly | March 23, 2022 at 9:46 pm

Do the ads at the bottom on the mobile site have to pop up and block 1/3 1/2 of the screen every time the screen refreshes?

First I thought this was Vassar doubling down on silly woke stuff.

Then I thought tripling down.

Then I realized only exponents can describe the magnitude of this garbage.

George_Kaplan | March 23, 2022 at 10:24 pm

So a newspaper article from a majority White campus had majority White quotations and the editors believe this is something to apologise for?

Is this Jim Crow 2.0 where folk are expected to apologise for being White and only those deemed acceptably Black (ideology and possibly ancestry but absolutely excluding Uncle Toms i.e. non-Leftists) permitted to speak?

    henrybowman in reply to George_Kaplan. | March 23, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    “It’s OK to be white.”

    Yes. And we should encourage the staff of the Vassar student paper to step aside and give their positions to black students. Immediately.

    Failure to do so is worse than babbling about how white they are and how aware they are of it, so what? That changes nothing. Change happens through action, and there’s an easy fix to the paper being too white. No more white students should work on it, period. Well, they can, but only as cleaning staff or personal assistants to show their true deference to black students and their true sorrow over past discrimination. The only answer to past discrimination, they know, is present discrimination. Not talk. Actual discrimination. And that starts with them, with them giving up their privileged positions on Vassar’s student paper. Or having it taken from them and handed to black students. No more whites at Vassar anywhere would be better still. From the admin to faculty and on down to the staff and, of course, all students must be black.

      LukeHandCool in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | March 24, 2022 at 1:57 am

      You can’t find a slippery slope slippery enough to keep up with reality these days.

        Heh, but the sooner they experience where this logically ends up, the better for everyone.

          Let’s hope they don’t completely destroy the country, beyond repair, in the process.

          They are already destroying the country, that’s why we need to urge them to accelerate the process. There is only way this goes, and that is that every white person needs to step down from positions of power and be replaced with a black person. Let’s start with Vassar’s student paper. When the lightbulb clicks on for these sanctimonious little twits and their own life and future are harmed, they’ll shut the hell up about how much their white privilege hurts their whittle hearts.

          LukeHandCool in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | March 24, 2022 at 12:24 pm

          I hope you’re right, Fuzzy.

          But these people seem to be so far gone I wonder if even a good old mugging by reality can turn a light bulb on in their heads.

“Our article exemplifies many of the institutional flaws and structural problems within our paper. Journalism, including college journalism, has historically been a white-centric, often elitist field, and The Miscellany News is not immune to the consequences of these structures.”

Then either quit and give your job to a BIPOC, or STFU, hypocrite.

Unbelievable. If 2/3 of Vassar students are white, wouldn’t you expect that the majority of quotes in any given story would often (though not always) be from white students? I mean, even if you were to engage in the collossal waste of effort of actually researching the race of each student quoted and then tallying them up (and I don’t understand why you would ever want to do that), isn’t that the result you should expect to find?

Come to think of it, how do they know the majority of quotes in this article were from white students? Did they actually do all that research? If so, what prompted them to do so, and do they do it for all articles? Or is it such a small campus that they personally know everyone quoted?

More likely the quoted students simply weren’t supportive of the protest. If they had been, then the quotes would have remained.

This doesn’t change Mr. Jacobson’s premise because the idea that woke politics justifies censorship and racism remains regardless of whether it was the reason or just the excuse.

But it does shed a little more light.

Speaking as an older person, I wonder what percent of their budgets these woke places get from donations and bequests. A very well-known one no longer gets a dime from me. Five of us, including my parents, graduated from there a very long time ago and felt good about the school for a very long time. I wonder how common this is?

    JohnSmith100 in reply to jb4. | March 24, 2022 at 4:41 pm

    I had 2 wealthy friends who were contributing large amounts of money to colleges, in millions, sometimes 2-digit millions. One of them was USF. They have a very checkered history, which he was unaware of. They found the offer withdrawn. Karma. Theft of undergrad intellectual property is not acceptable.

I have no problem with more Black people writing in woke journalism. They don’t hold back and show just how racist they are. The more, the merrier for pointing out their double standards and unapologetic bigotry. Out yourselves more please!

    JohnSmith100 in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 24, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Affirmative Action is innately racist but low key, today black racism is overt and aggressive. We need to pull their plug. Return to merit based and advance deserving people of all races on that basis.

LukeHandCool | March 24, 2022 at 1:47 am

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FIFO: Zionist Jews barge in, take everything, and split before you’ve even entered the room.

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Weighted Average: We are all the same. Cost of Goods Sold are your white colleagues as they go on to bigger and better things. You? Your brown or black ass is just Remaining Inventory of Color. Nobody cares about you. You ain’t goin’ nowhere.

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Ol' Jim hisself | March 24, 2022 at 8:24 am

Could it be because the blacks cannot express themselves in a language that is suitable for a student publication?

    JohnSmith100 in reply to Ol' Jim hisself. | March 24, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    Most certainly there are people like that, though my experience is large numbers of black people have good verbal skills, the problem is that often they lack skills and/or the will to follow through.

Steven Brizel | March 24, 2022 at 8:55 am

Writing in the English language with proper grammar and usage is a sign of being educated-not being white

Maybe the White commenters can do something ‘sensitive’ and purposely miss spell a whole bunch of words, or speak in utterly incomprehensible sentences. If it is to be performance art, then play to the applause.

Men are a minority at Vassar. Were 40% of the comments from men?

E Howard Hunt | March 24, 2022 at 10:14 am

With whom we are representing? Not over whom?

Unless accompanied by a picture, how would a reader know the race of those being quoted? Save your money. Go to a better college.

These people are bat sh%t crazy. As in the United States, whites are a majority @ Vassar

Vassar Student Demographics

Race/Ethnicity Number
White 1,337
Asian 288
Hispanic 270
International 228
Multi-Ethnic 216
Black or African American 91
Unknown 8
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0

Vassar Faculty Demographics

Ethnicity Number of Faculty
White 805
Black or African American 133
Asian 52
Multi-Ethnic 14
Hispanic 0
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0
International 0
Unknown 0

healthguyfsu | March 24, 2022 at 2:32 pm

LOL white people are a mistake. That’s the message here.

Kill yourselves.

LukeHandCool | March 24, 2022 at 3:24 pm

The wife and I will be retiring in Japan two years from now if I don’t keel over and die before then. Knowing my luck that’s a big “if.”

The wife complains that the leftist media in Japan often tries to push progressive trends there that are the rage in America at the time.

So I was relieved that somebody over there is sounding the alarm about CRT. The woman about whom she is complaining (who wants to teach Japanese people living in Japan that they are privileged and that their very existence is discrimination towards foreigners living in Japan) is … of course … a leftist journalism professor at the University of Tokyo.

https://twitter.com/lporiginalg/status/1496548563811434498?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1496548563811434498%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Face.mu.nu%2F

typical left……..they have no idea how horrible it is about to get and what is going to happen to them.

How would they even know what color the people quoted are? Was each quote accompanied by a photo? Even if they were, photos don’t tell the full story. I’m adopted, was raised in an Italian-American family and look like my adoptive father, sister and cousins. Found out a couple of years ago that my birth mother is Irish and my birth father was African-American.

it probably doesn’t have anything to do with literacy…

1. What was anybody upset with about Jeh Johnson?

2. “Our article exemplifies many of the institutional flaws and structural problems within our paper. Journalism, including college journalism, has historically been a white-centric, often elitist field, and The Miscellany News is not immune to the consequences of these structures.
So, when did the staff of The Miscellany News attend reeducation camp?

We should thank The Miscellany News for providing a great example and, perhaps, definition of the word “craven.”

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