Viewpoints

Retraction of “A Springtime Strip”

While it made claims that were intended as satirical, the article read as discriminatory toward female students.

Dear readers,

You may have noticed the considerable response, both on campus and on the MAROON Web site, to “A Springtime Strip,” an op-ed by Luke Dumas that was published in the Viewpoints section of the MAROON’s last issue.  The Feminist Majority, an RSO, placed stickers reading “This insults women” on copies of the MAROON in many campus buildings; online, the article has received over 50 comments, most of which are negative.

Opinions expressed in Viewpoints inevitably spark controversy from time to time; never offending anyone is not a realistic or intelligent goal for a newspaper. But “A Springtime Strip” was not merely controversial. While it made claims that were intended as satirical, the article read as discriminatory toward female students. The MAROON retracts these remarks, and the article has been amended online at chicagomaroon.com to reflect this action.

The tastelessness of “A Springtime Strip” was brought to my attention before its publication, near the end of the MAROON’s production process. I made major changes to the article, but even after that, I knew it remained deeply problematic. I saw three choices: I could allow the piece to be published as it was, spend even more time making changes, or remove the article and replace it with more or less blank space. None of these were ideal options. But I made the worst possible choice. 

Viewpoints’ purpose is to be a forum for our campus. To that end, a basic standard of decency and respect for our readers is not a fine point—it is an essential. The Viewpoints section aims to engage its readers with challenging opinions, and for that to work, readers must afford the section a basic level of trust. Allowing remarks that discriminate against readers based on arbitrary categories including gender, race, and orientation is a violation of that trust. In allowing “A Springtime Strip” to be published, I did not show MAROON readers the respect they deserve. For that, I am truly sorry.

It seems that few people can agree on an identical standard of decency. Readers have had a range of responses to the article, from outrage, to laughter, to indifference. As editor-in-chief, however, it is my responsibility to decide when content in this paper crosses the line. And I feel that “A Springtime Strip” did just that. The retracted parts of the article describe women using excessively harsh language and a contemptuous tone. Prior to the retraction, the article’s imagery and exaggeration implied a resemblance between female students and prostitutes. I firmly believe these remarks read as discriminatory; yet I allowed the article to be published intact. This was an instance of gross editorial oversight on my part. I will not let it happen again.

Thank you for giving me the chance to explain my actions.

Sincerely,

Supriya Sinhababu

Editor-in-chief

  • Thomas Jameson

    And what is going to be done about it?

    Let Dumas write another offensive editorial? Or another editorial at all? Let the editors of his section who approved this before you continue at jobs they seem unfit to hold?

    An apology is nice, but I don’t see the action.

  • anonymous

    Any worthwhile paper should take the time to interrogate their facts.

    The Maroon has struggled with veracity before and this retraction has again reflected a failure to seek out reliable information. The stickers were NOT placed by the Feminist Majority or by any RSO or official body.

    Students who work with Femmaj, along with many other students and non-students, responded via listhost and started conversations elsewhere but there was no official organization of stickering efforts. Feminism is much more widespread than Femmaj and clearly Dumas’ article insulted not only women but also men and all in between.

    I don’t know where this information came from. This rhetorical band-aid has a big hole in it. Come on, Maroon. Live up to your promise–”This paper can do better. We’ll make that happen. -CM”

    I’m waiting!

  • Ali Feenstra

    the stickers were not produced or disseminated officially by the feminist majority. i will personally attest to that.

  • Rachel C.

    The stickers were placed on the Maroon by individual students, not the Feminist Majority. Though I no longer write for the Maroon, I at least tried to get my facts right about the story:

    http://girlstudentjournalist.blogspot.com/2009/05/students-challenge-maroon-column-as.html

  • Anonymous

    I am shocked to learn that you made last-minute changes to Dumas’ article “near the end of the Maroon’s production process.” This means that we haven’t seen Dumas’ original article at all; rather, we have seen your words placed in his mouth. Is Dumas really to blame here? Why should we not wonder whether your edits changed the nature of the article and unwittingly caused the uproar?

  • Eric G

    Yes, this is all a conspiracy plot enacted by the Maroon editors to incite a lynch mob against Luke Dumas. Nevermind the fact that he has a history of offensive columns (Read his last one) or that his newest column was retracted for his derogatory language and tone in general. This is all the work of the schemers. Really, now?

  • anonymous

    This is not the first time the Maroon has published an inane op-ed piece. While others may not have been as offensive, they have been equally pointless and just as poorly written as Dumas’s piece. For a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out why this is the case. Why is their such a gap between the quality of reporting and the quality of the viewpoints? Is it because the columnists have to churn out persuasive arguments twice a week? Tim Murphy’s columns are an exception–well-written, to the point, thoughtful and about things that actually matter. Of course, not all the op-eds are inane, but too many of them are.

    I’m not sure what the reason is, but if the quality of the op-eds does not get any better, I would advise the Maroon (since it is having space problems anyway) to devote half the space to viewpoints and instead expand on their news section. They do an excellent job reporting, and I often wish there were more news articles.

  • Anonymous

    Why was no such retraction given for Dumas’ “Having a Gay Old Time”, published not three weeks ago? It, too, used language that, violated the “basic trust” that does not allow “remarks that discriminate against readers based on arbitrary categories including gender, race, and orientation.”

    I am also disturbed that there is no retraction by Dumas himself; does Dumas not abide by your “standard of decency”? If not, why he publishing in your paper? His misinformation and offensive comments only seek to denegrate the Maroon rather than contribute to its purpose as “a forum for our campus”.

  • P.M. Jorganfeld

    Definition of “offensive”: Something the majority disagrees with. That’s on full display today. And it sure as hell isn’t grounded in robust notions of freedom of speech and press. Dumas should be able to publish whatever he damn well pleases. And if you don’t like it, you should be free to publish a vigorous rebuttal. But this nonsense of retractions and article modifications by editors et cetera has to stop. This isn’t Iran. Or Canada.

  • Third Year (Girl)

    I’m more insulted by the fact that over half of this campus care more about that light-hearted, (and honestly, very true article about people who show more skin than they should) than about something as stupid as Eliza Behlen’s absurd response to the 300 million gift from Booth in the fall: http://www.chicagomaroon.com/2008/11/14/booth-donation-could-be-better-spent.

    Wonderful to see where our priorities lie.

  • Bob

    Look. The Dumas op-ed was just more memorable for its ham-fisted lunkery than its elegance and wit. One can’t expect the writer to be someone else. Maybe he’ll get better over time. One hopes so. Otherwise, what’s offensive is anyone’s guess, which is not the same as saying many were offended. If the paper weren’t free those who disapproved could vote with their pocketbooks. The Maroon can print what it wants and take the risks that come along with it; the editors set the standard. But once done, it’s done. The editor in chief would have been better served by acknowledging the outrage and complaints which had risen to operatic pitch, and then saying, “Now, continue to discuss among yourselves. This is what democracy and a free press is all about.” Really, what everyone should be hoping for is that Dumas really try hard to be rigorous on his next editoral — not in being politically correct, but in the writing being funny as fuck.

  • The Dictionary

    Dear P.M. Jorganfield,

    Offensive, adj. Repugnant to the moral sense, good taste, or the like; insulting.

    Just because the Maroon doesn’t check facts doesn’t mean that you don’t need to either.